Opinion: Governor Scott right to focus on regulatory process
Sep 1, 2011
The following article was published in the Daytona Beach News Jorurnal on September 1, 2011:
Scott right to focus on regulatory process
Oversight by government is something usually focused on taxpayers and businesses.
Rarely do you see major oversight efforts aimed by government at government, taking stock of regulations and the need for them. A worthy effort to do that is under way in Tallahassee.
In a Monday visit to Palm Coast, Gov. Rick Scott assured Flagler County officials he would stick to his plan to reduce red tape and regulations not just for businesses, but for city and county governments that have long dreaded submitting paperwork to various state agencies.
Scott is taking the right approach. Deregulation can help improve the economy in Florida. State deregulation could free up resources in the private sector and save taxpayers and clients of the state time and money.
Taking questions at a breakfast with members of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce and Affiliates, Scott said he had 1,100 regulations and rules ready for the chopping block. Scott and the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform are compiling a list of such regulations that can be repealed or withdrawn by the state’s chief executive.
Scott was rebuked in mid-August by the Florida Supreme Court for his suspension of new rulemaking at various state agencies earlier this year. The court said that move violated the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.
In this case, Scott believes that existing rules can be withdrawn or repealed by the chief executive if he deems they are no longer needed.
The list includes rules pertaining to pharmacy permits, licensure procedures, junkyards and dental records. The list is lengthy, but many of the rules probably don’t have a major impact on the state economy. For example, one rule being reviewed has to do with visitors’ attire at Department of Corrections sites. The list is a good start — but it’s hardly the end of the journey for Scott and Florida lawmakers.
Lawmakers will likely revisit deregulation of various industries in the 2012 session. A bill to deregulate the licensing of many workers — from interior designers to talent agents — died in the state Senate because it came late in the session. But Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said individual aspects of that bill are likely to be approved. Reducing barriers to entry for new businesses is a good way to stimulate the Florida economy.
Another issue is the cost of regulation. When Scott met with Flagler business and government officials, he got an earful about unfunded mandates — those bothersome edicts from the state that often get issued without funding for enforcement. Such federal and state laws have been more and more in the news as regulatory agencies from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to Florida’s Department of Community Affairs exercise powers that many lawmakers now say they regret giving the agencies.
In Florida, the DCA is a prime example. The agency’s control over large developments made it unusually powerful, and it became a hot issue in the 2010 campaign for governor. When Scott took the reins of power, he decreased the DCA’s scope and mission, much to the relief of local governments and businessmen whose projects were subject to the DCA’s agendas. By reining in the DCA, Scott and the Legislature struck a blow for home rule.
Flagler County Manager Craig Coffey said he is already seeing changes in how state government operates, and that’s a point Scott is apparently stressing: Timeliness is very important when serving Floridians.
Flagler officials say they often had to reapply for permits in the past. Now, routine permits for such things as municipal water management are being sped up, they said.
One of the biggest complaints from Flagler officials was the waiting time for a decision from state agencies. Flagler businessmen complained the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would not even look at some permits for at least 30 days after the applications were filed.
Thrasher said state government is often not moving at the speed of business. He’s right. Business leaders need timely decisions. It is one rule that Scott needs to proclaim to all agency heads.
It’s time to modernize Florida’s rules and regulations for businesses and local governments. And it’s time for agency heads to be responsive to the taxpayers — their clients. Florida’s economic situation demands an ongoing and energetic effort to reduce red tape.