Report: SC lawmakers should vote on all proposed regulations

abeam@thestate.comNovember 15, 2013 

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley announces the report of her Regulatory Review Task Force, which reviewed thousands of the state's regulations. Haley says lawmakers should be forced to vote on regulations before they are approved.

ADAM BEAM/ABEAM@THESTATE.COM

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    Online: You can read the report of the regulatory review task force online at thestate.com.

— The state of South Carolina should stop its process of automatically enacting regulations issued by state agencies if lawmakers don’t vote to block those rules, according to a report issued Friday by a task force created by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.

The task force, which has been meeting since February, unveiled its report at an event sponsored by the S.C. Chamber of Commerce at the Isle of Palms. Haley, who said she has not yet read the report, said she and her staff will review it to decide which recommendations should be implemented.

But she said lawmakers must change the rules that currently allow regulations proposed by state agencies to go into effect unless blocked by a vote by the General Assembly. “If you don’t, it just passes through and nobody ever knows what happens,” Haley said.

However, state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, a member of the task force, said requiring lawmakers to vote on all regulations “is not going to happen.” He said doing that would make the Legislature to “micromanage” the regulatory process, with lawmakers having to vote on minute changes – such as “how many feet a dock has to be from something.”

“There are potentially hundreds – if not thousands – of regulations that come through every year,” Hutto said. “We would never get anything done if we had to do that.”

The committee reviewed some 3,000 regulations controlled by 22 state agencies, most of them Cabinet agencies that report directly to the governor. Haley said her office would focus on the eliminating the “low-hanging fruit” – regulations that she described as “silly” and “duplicative.”

For example, Haley said it does not make sense for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to regulate S.C. milk production while the state Department of Agriculture regulates cheese. Haley also does not like rules that require modular home builders to get their plans certified by a third-party engineer and officials at the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

“Why not take LLR out of the group and just let them get certified by a third party?” Haley said. “These are small things. But, when you go ask those businesses, that’s money. That’s money that they could have in their cash flow. That’s money they could have in their profit margins. And what happens when businesses have cash flow and profit margins? They expand their businesses. That’s jobs.”

Not every recommendation is black-and-white.

One recommendation would stop DHEC from considering local zoning laws when deciding whether to grant a landfill permit.

But if those laws are not considered, “you end up with more litigation, which is bad for the state and bad for the applicant,” said Coastal Conservation League executive director Dana Beach, a member of the regulatory review task force. “(The report) is a long way off from any level of implementation.”

It’s unclear how many of the report’s 60 recommendations Haley could implement on her own and how many would require legislative action. Haley said she would be careful to consider the environmental impact when deciding which regulations to eliminate.

“I’ve always believed that there is a fine line between business and the environment and, for South Carolina, it has to be a strong line because tourism is so incredibly important to us,” Haley said. “But we want to make sure our business environment is still the best in the country. I don’t think you have to pick one or the other. I think you can actually make sure they are both great. And hopefully, that is what (the task force) has done.”

See below to read the executive summary of the task force’s report:

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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