(Updated 9:36 p.m) Connecticut’s regulatory burdens have long been a complaint of the business community. That’s why Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed an executive order last week calling for a review of all state regulations that have been on the books for more than four years.
The executive order asks for the public’s help in identifying regulations that are obsolete, duplicative, excessively burdensome, or otherwise ineffective or unnecessary. To make the task even easier, for the first time ever, the 15,000 pages of regulations are all online.
All public comments must be submitted by Dec. 16. Then each agency will receive the public comments pertaining to their agency and identify the regulations that are outdated, ineffective, or unnecessarily burdensome. Additionally, each agency will conduct an independent review of the regulations and submit them to the governor’s office on or before Feb. 3, 2014.
Regulations that cost the state more than $1 million or municipalities more than $100,000 will be rigorously analyzed with the help of “external experts and academic institutions.”
While the effort was widely applauded by both political parties, House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero was left scratching his head.
In a letter to Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel C. Esty, and Transportation Commissioner James Redeker, Cafero recalled that as part of the 2011 bipartisan Jobs Bill, the General Assembly had asked their agencies for a similar review.
“As agency heads, you were required to submit your recommendations to the appropriate legislative committees by February 1, 2012,” Cafero said. “Based on communications between my office and those committees, your agencies failed to file recommendations shortly after the deadline. And to my knowledge, no recommendations have been submitted since that time.”
The Department of Economic and Community Development said it just received Cafero’s letter Monday. The DEEP and DOT both said they complied with the 2011 Jobs Bill and submitted legislation that helped streamline state government.
Regardless of where those efforts stand, the drive to reduce regulatory burdens across all state agencies was met with praise and some skepticism.
Ben Zimmer, executive director of the Connecticut Policy Institute, called Malloy’s executive order “a positive step,” but wonders if the legislature will find the political will to really get rid of some of the regulations.
“Will the governor use up some of his political capital to get some of these regulations removed during the legislative session?” Zimmer wondered.
Zimmer authored a report in March 2013 outlining the various regulations where he believes the costs outweigh the benefits.
One of Zimmer’s recommendations was to get rid of occupational licensing for certain professions. He said Connecticut currently licenses 155 professions, the second most in the country after California and more than the national average of 92.
Another recommendation that seemed out of date to Zimmer was the state’s Stage 2 vapor recovery program. The program requires gas stations to install certain piece of equipment to reduce gasoline emissions while pumping, but most vehicles now come with onboard recovery systems that eliminate these emissions just as well.
Dennis Schain, a spokesman with the DEEP, pointed out that his agency had already taken action on eliminating the vapor recovery mandate before Zimmer released his report. The legislature made it official this year when it repealed the regulation.
A spokesman for the Transportation Department said most of the regulatory action called for by the 2011 Jobs Bill was taken care of this year in a bill that among other things spells out how the state should approach projects either with a construction manager or with a technique called “design-build.” In the later, the owner contracts with a single entity that both designs and builds the project.
Zimmer applauded the governor’s effort, but noted that it’s a long road ahead before anything will actually change.
“This is only a small, first step,” he said Monday.
In a press release last week, Malloy said his administration was “committed to making state government more efficient, more transparent and more responsive, and engaging Connecticut’s citizens and businesses in a public conversation about state regulations is an important part of that effort.”
However, none of the regulations adopted in the last four years are part of the review process. Malloy took office in January 2011.
“It is also curious that the governor is exempting from scrutiny any regulations passed under his watch,” Zimmer said.