by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
Since gaining the majority of the General Assembly, Republicans have passed annual regulatory reform bills since 2011. Setting — and keeping — a goal of reducing red tape is beneficial. And last week the state Senate began considering Senate Bill 553, the Regulatory Reform Act of 2019.
The bill makes several nibbles at reform (go here for discussion), and making small, practical fixes is good. If there’s anything the last decade has proven about regulatory reform, it’s that it is a marathon, and not a sprint.
That said, there are still several big areas of reform still waiting. They include:
Periodic review tweak. Have all rules either sunset or be reviewed every ten years. Eliminate the “third bucket” in which rules get re-upped without review.
Rules throttle/legislative rules ratification.If an agency proposes a rule that would exceed a certain cost threshold, the rule could not take effect unless it received an affirming vote in the General Assembly. Rules have the same practical force as laws, but they are made by bureaucrats who aren’t accountable to the voters. Legislators are the lawmaking branch of government, and having a final say over deeply impactful rules would serve the principle of good government.
Occupational licensing consumer choice. It would allow a service professional in a field licensed in North Carolina to retain their right to earn a living even without an occupational license by providing consumers with a non-license disclosure prior to agreeing to do work. Consumers could then knowingly choose someone whose professional credentials in a state-licensed profession would include many other things, including another state’s license, but not a state license.
Small business flexibility analysis. North Carolina is one of the few states that lack this common-sense feature. It lets agencies adjust regulatory burdens for small businesses, such as compliance and reporting requirements, recognizing that they more burdensome on small business who can’t afford to hire compliance staff.
Default mens rea. Where the code is silent, a default mens rea statute would restore the crucial, common-law protection against leveling criminal penalties against someone for breaking a rule or law unknowingly and without meaning to.
Our policy position on Red Tape and Regulatory Reform includes several others.