Congress may be mired in gridlock, but the federal bureaucracy is busier than ever. In 2013 the Federal Register contained 3,659 “final” rules, which means they now must be obeyed, and 2,594 proposed rules on their way to becoming orders from political headquarters.
The Federal Register finished 2013 at 79,311 pages, the fourth highest total in history. That didn’t match President Obama’s 2010 all-time record of 81,405 pages. But Mr. Obama can console himself by noting that of the five highest Federal Register page counts, four have occurred on his watch. The other was 79,435 pages under PresidentGeorge W. Bush in 2008.
Anyone who believes this isn’t costly to consumers and business is being silly.
Thankfully, here in North Carolina, the Republican-led General Assembly understands the burden of over-regulation and has done something — actually many things — to provide relief. You’ll find all the details of the Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 here. Carolina Journal’s Barry Smith wrote about the legislature’s reforms last summer.
A key piece of the reform would require state regulations to come up for periodic review, an action that one academic study suggests is an important measure a state can take to reduce its regulatory burden.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation. “Sunsetting has been proven to be a very effective way of reducing regulation in the state.”
Sanders pointed to a study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University concluding that sunset provisions had a significant positive impact on economic growth.
Under the bill, the Rules Review Commission would establish a schedule for regulations to be reviewed. If an agency does not conduct the review by the date set in the schedule, the rule would automatically expire.
• Prohibit local governments from enforcing zoning ordinances against grandfathered practices after 10 years.
• Allow billboard owners to remove trees blocking their signs along highway acceleration and deceleration ramps. It also allows billboard companies to repair their signs, provided the advertising surface area is not increased. It also would allow them to change an existing multipole structure to a monopole sign.
• Allow a bed and breakfast to serve three meals per day to its guests, instead of just breakfast.
• Allow businesses that offer employment preferences to veterans and their spouses to get immunity from potential violations of state or local equal employment opportunity law.
• Direct the Building Code Council to adopt rules requiring hotels to install carbon monoxide detectors in facilities that are heated with fossil-fuel radiators, fireplaces, or other fuel-burning appliances. “It does include the existing facilities,” Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, said when an earlier measure was debated in the House. The provision is in response to three deaths blamed on carbon monoxide toxicity in a Boone hotel earlier this year.