EDITORIAL: Boldly clearing the deck

Feb. 13, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Some weeks ago in this space, we wrote about the numerous occupational licensing boards in North Carolina and the red tape associated with operating businesses across the state.

Last week, a state Senate committee took a swipe at revamping the regulatory binge. This initial action was more bold and far-reaching than most people expected. For one thing, it set into motion the elimination of several regulatory policy boards and commissions. Senate Bill 34, titled “Eliminate Obsolete Boards and Commissions,” is sponsored by four Republican senators, including Sen. Ronald Rabin who represents Lee and Harnett counties and a sliver of western Johnston County.

These boards and commissions, whose membership is appointed by state officials, have a major impact on the rules, regulations and licensing requirements. Their economic impact is significant.

Emboldened by their 33-17 majority in the Senate, a 77-43 majority in the House and a newly elected governor and lieutenant governor, North Carolina Republicans are obviously not hesitant to act swiftly and undo these panels. With Democrats controlling the state government for decades, it is not a surprise that the panels are stacked with people from that party.

The proposed legislation would do away with more than a dozen state boards, reduce the size of others, place membership term lengths on some and change who has the power to appoint members. The plan includes the dismissal of all current members of such panels as the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the Industrial Commission, Coastal Resources Commission and Lottery Commission.

If passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, SB34 would allow Gov. McCrory, with perhaps the confirmation by the legislature, to re-establish the boards and commissions and appoint new members.

Republicans are calling this a cost-saving measure. They also know that it would give their party an opportunity to reconstitute any desired panels and place their stamp on state government.

Republican Senator Bill Rabon (Brunswick County) said, “We're cleaning up some things that have been left behind, some of them for as long as four decades.”

Naturally, Democrats have a different view. Senate Minority Whip Josh Stein (Wake County), said “I think it is a breathtaking and unprecedented power grab — there is no other way to describe it … . Look, they won. I understand, but their throwing the entire thing out so they can put their folks in is just wrong.”

Although this is a partisan — Republicans vs. Democrats — issue, it may also be an attempt to re-balance power. The legislative branch may be sending a message to the governor that it wants to have more involvement in which boards and commissions are established and that it wants to have more influence in the appointment process. Setting up a process to identify unbeneficial rules that should be discontinued, and to identify those that are beneficial to the public, should be on the legislative agenda.

Regardless of the outcome of this proposed legislation, perhaps it will get the attention of lawmakers and slam the topic of burdensome regulations down on the front burner.

Unintended negative consequences of regulations should be a major concern. Every citizen in the state should welcome a requirement to conduct a projected economic impact analysis prior to passing any regulation. If this is the outgrowth from the introduction of Senate Bill 34, perhaps the state will benefit from it.