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February 13, 2013

Haley: Cut SC rules that hurt businesses

The SC governor, who touts job creation as her top priority, signed an executive order Tuesday creating a task force, composed mostly of business leaders, to suggest regulations that should be eliminated.

Gov. Nikki Haley took steps Tuesday to fulfill her promise to identify and cut state regulations that she says hurt South Carolina’s businesses.

The governor, who touts job creation as her top priority, signed an executive order Tuesday creating a task force, composed mostly of business leaders, to suggest regulations that should be eliminated. The order also requires 16 Cabinet agencies to review and eliminate any time-consuming, costly and inefficient regulations.

“Government is never supposed to be slowing things down,” Haley said in signing the order at a Cabinet meeting. “If you can find a way to speed up your processes, if you can find a way to be more customer-friendly, we can get rid of these regulations that used to matter that no longer matter (and) you are doing the right thing. We’re not asking you to compromise safety.”

The governor did not cite any specific regulations that should be eliminated but said three state agencies likely would have the most rules to trim: the Department of Health and Environmental Control, which oversees pollution control; the Department of Licensing, Labor and Regulation, which licenses many businesses; and the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Medicaid insurance program for the poor and disabled.

“There is a lack of oversight, and the agency tends to grow and grow and grow,” Health and Human Services director Tony Keck said.

Haley wants her agencies to look at the cost-benefit of regulations. Those where the costs outweigh the benefits should go, she said.

The governor’s order applies to the 16 Cabinet agencies that report to the governor. She is recommending other state departments do the same.

In addition to naming five business, construction and health-care leaders to the task force, Haley said she will appoint a member from the conservation community.

But some environmentalists expressed concern about the intentions of the governor’s group.

If the 11-member task force is filled mostly with anti-regulatory ideologues, the committee will not win support for its recommendations from the Legislature or the public, predicted Dana Beach, executive director of the Charleston-based Coastal Conservation League.

“The problem is there has been this belief that regulation is bad for business,” Beach said. “If we feed this rhetoric that it’s the environment versus business, it will not be productive. The public supports clean water and good air quality.”

Dan Dennis, chairman of the S.C. Department of Commerce’s small business regulatory committee and president of the Columbia-based, 60-employee Dennis Corp. engineering firm, is the only person appointed to the task force so far.

“All these regulations have good intentions when they are started, but the consequences have been terrible,” Dennis said Tuesday. Asked for a top state issue that hurts his firm, Dennis cited rising unemployment insurance rates. Those rates were increased to repay federal loans that the state’s unemployment fund received during the Great Recession to avoid insolvency, not by state regulation.

State House and Senate leaders from both parties, including House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, will appoint four members to the task force.

Rutherford said Tuesday that Republicans “have talked the talk for years” about too many state regulations but done nothing to fix the problem. “They set the house on fire and now they want us to help put it out,” Rutherford said.

Cabinet agencies must report their findings to Haley’s task force by May 15. A final report from the task force is due Nov. 15.

“We’re going to put (it) out there, make it kind of a road map of saying, ‘This is what’s wrong,’ ” Haley said.

Haley, a first-term Republican from Lexington, promised regulatory reform in her State of the State speech a month ago.

Some proposed regulations go into effect automatically when lawmakers do not vote to block them within 120 days. Haley, who spent six years as a state representative, said she would like legislators to consider changes to ensure they review all regulations.

Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, a longtime Senate leader, agreed more review of regulations is needed. The Charleston Republican said Haley’s order was “a step in the right direction.” But, he added, it “this just scratches the surface of the problem and doesn’t stop the march to bigger and bigger regulation.”

McConnell said nothing stops agencies from adding to regulations approved by lawmakers.

“Hopefully, (state) agencies will do some self-reflection and stop growing their jobs by the fees they add with these regulations,” McConnell said. “Fees are hidden taxes. It’s the silent growth of government.”

Regulatory reform is not atop the agendas of all legislative leaders.

Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson, R-Richland, a commercial insurance broker, said he does not hear much about problems with state regulations from his constituents and clients.

“It rarely comes up,” said Courson, adding he hears more often about desires to limit lawsuits and reform the worker’s compensation system.

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