Why Do Activists Fear Regulatory Reform?

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 21, 2015 7:32:38 AM

The tantrum being staged by some environmental activists over Governor Charlie Baker’s regulatory reform initiative makes us wonder what scares these groups about an objective review of the commonwealth’s regulatory structure.

paperwork.crop.smallBaker signed an executive order on March 31 initiating a comprehensive review process for all regulations enforced by the Executive branch and leaving in place the regulatory moratorium announced by the administration earlier this year. The order requires state agencies to ensure that existing regulations are clear and concise and that any newly proposed regulations are measured for their potential impact on businesses of all sizes.

Hardly a radical proposition. Indeed, AIM and its 4,500 member employers maintain in the association’s Blueprint for the Next Century economic plan that Massachusetts must “establish a world-class state regulatory system that ensures the health and welfare of society in a manner that meets the highest standards for efficiency, predictability, transparency and responsiveness.”

But not everyone is happy about reform.

“An executive order by Governor Charlie Baker has set off alarms among environmentalists, consumer activists, and union leaders, who fear it will dismantle some of Massachusetts’ strict regulations governing the state’s water and air quality standards, worker safety requirements, and health regulations,” screamed an April 12 article in The Boston Globe.

The hopelessly biased article quotes George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, as warning that “There is great concern across the board” in the education, public health, labor, business, and environmental fields.

But the Globe wasn’t done. It published a second article on Friday in which it called AIM “one of the state’s leading antiregulatory groups” and suggested that Secretary of Administration and Finance Kristen Lepore, a former Vice President at AIM, somehow appropriated regulatory reform language from the AIM Blueprint.

It’s curious that the environmental community reflexively mischaracterizes an initiative supported by virtually every Massachusetts employer to ensure an efficient, coherent and consistent regulatory system worthy of the Bay State’s status as an economic leader. It’s a reminder that inefficient regulatory structures create their own bureaucracies of apologists who benefit more from perpetuation of the status quo than from making the regulations work well for everyone.

Let’s set the record straight:

  • Massachusetts employers acknowledge the need for effective and well-managed regulation that ensures the health and welfare of society - without weakening the financial underpinnings of the job market. Our Blueprint offers several innovative proposals for “smart partnerships” to ensure that government-business interactions solve problems instead of propping up bureaucracies. One such example came from State Senator Daniel Wolf from the Cape and Islands, founder of Cape Air in Hyannis, who some years ago worked with state environmental officials to capture runoff from the washing of planes at Barnstable Municipal Airport.
  • Kristen Lepore did not author the Blueprint – I did. (Perhaps the environmental folks mistook Kristen for Chris.) But I did not write the Blueprint alone. The plan is based on detailed conversations and meetings with more than 1,000 hard-working Massachusetts employers, from corner grocery stores to software startups, who took time last fall to offer their best ideas to improve the commonwealth’s economy. One small employer summarized the need for regulatory reform this way: “A small employer does not have the staff, resources or time to figure out the multiple layers of regulation.  There are way too many minefields that can trip up or stall a small business.  This is an opportunity cost that is never discussed and cannot be measured.  How much time is wasted worrying about or dealing with regulation that is well intentioned, but is rarely thought through to its consequence?
  • AIM unequivocally applauds the Baker Administration for including in its executive order the provision that state regulations not exceed federal requirements or duplicate local requirements. The recent fiasco involving state hoisting regulations issued despite a pre-emption in federal law illustrates the potential waste of time and money created when state policymakers trying to one-up the federal government. We agree with David I. Begelfer, chief executive of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, Massachusetts, who told the Globe: “There is a good question to ask: Why do we have higher standards than the federal government? … It’s not enough to say more stringent is better.”

Governor Baker’s regulatory reform is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to foster long-term economic growth by taking a clear-eyed look at regulations that are outdated, redundant, ineffective, inefficient or unnecessary.

So what are the environmental activists so afraid of?

Topics: Charlie Baker

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