The Making of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
Before the landmark decisions and controversial cases, the PSC first had to be formed. Here’s a step by step look at the making of the PSC
How the PSC came to being
Chapter 237, Law of 1874: Railroad oversight established
Public utility regulation in Wisconsin followed and was closely related to railroad regulation. Railroads were the first modern enterprise to have their rates regulated, and Wisconsin became one of the first states to pass such laws. Chapter 273, Laws of 1874 (Potter Law), established a railroad rate structure and provided for 3 appointed railroad commissioners to supervise rail freight operations.
Chapter 57, Law of 1876: Repeal of the Law of 1874
Two years after the Railroad Commission was established, Chapter 57, Laws of 1876, the legislature repealed much of the 1874 law and established a single appointed commissioner of railroads. The commissioner was made an elected official in 1881 (Chapter 300).
Chapter 362, Law of 1905: Governor Robert LaFollette appointed three-member Railroad Commission
The forerunner of today’s Commission dates from Chapter 362, Laws of 1905, which created an appointed 3-member Railroad Commission to supervise rail operations, appraise railroad property,
Chapter 499, Law of 1907: The Railroad Commission started regulating public utilities
With the enactment of Chapter 499, Laws of 1907, which extended the powers of the Railroad Commission, Wisconsin became the first state to regulate public utilities. It is this date in history that we reflect on and celebrate how utility regulation has protected the public's interest.
Chapter 183, Law of 1931: Renamed the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
Chapter 183, Laws of 1931, renamed the agency the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin and made it responsible for comprehensive motor carrier regulation in 1933 (Chapter 488). The 1967 executive branch reorganization continued the commission as an independent agency.
Chapter 29, Law of 1977: Transferred railroad oversight to Department of Transportation, then to its own Railroad Commission
Chapter 29, Laws of 1977, transferred the commission’s railroad and motor carrier regulatory functions to the Transportation Commission (recreated in 1982 as the now defunct Office of the Commissioner of Transportation). Railroad regulation was assigned to the newly created Office of the Commissioner of Railroads by 1993 Wisconsin Act 123.