End of Red Tape in South Carolina — Again?

Published on May 15, 2013

By Corey Hutchins | Free Times

This week, Nikki Haley’s 16 cabinet agencies and others are set to report to the governor a list of all suggested regulations they want repealed or tweaked in an effort to shred red tape in state government.

Back in February, Haley created a task force to review such regulations in an effort to reduce the government’s involvement in business. She called it the Governor’s Regulatory Review Task Force and staffed it with 10 people: businessmen, lawmakers, environmentalists and others. Some in the political process view government regulation as a business-interest boogieman that threatens free markets and growth. Others view regulations as necessary protections for consumers and the environment.

It’s been a hot topic in the state lately. The day after Haley announced her task force, GOP Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell proposed his own plan for revising regulatory processes in South Carolina.

“Regulations skirt the legislative process, yet have the full effect of the law,” McConnell said in a statement. He added how in South Carolina, regulations automatically go into effect 120 days after being introduced and don’t require any debate or discussion. One agency, he said, had even attempted to exempt itself from state law through regulation.

“Essentially, it’s government on auto-pilot,” McConnell said. “For instance, in 2012, only two regulations were approved by joint resolution, though 110 were proposed and 61 total went into effect.”

McConnell is scheduled to testify at a task force meeting May 16 about the process by which regulations come about, according to task force chairman Mark Lutz. The task force is broken down into groups of two or three who deal with certain agencies.

Lutz, a vice president of a multimedia company who is also a member of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board, said he hopes the public is as engaged as possible in the process moving forward.

“We know it’s obviously a big effort and big undertaking from [the agencies] as it is for us,” Lutz says. And he urges members of the public to get in touch with him or the state Department of Commerce if they have ideas.

One person who has taken him up on his offer so far is Gere Fulton, president of the board of directors at the state Funeral Consumers Alliance. He thinks casket builders in South Carolina are way over-regulated. For instance, regulations require a woodworker who wants to sell caskets to pay a $200 nonrefundable fee, have a publicly available restroom in his or her shop, and six adult caskets on display, among other things.

It’s likely such regulations that have groups like the National Federation of Independent Businesses lauding a top-to-bottom review in South Carolina.

Dana Beach, president of the Coastal Conservation League, and who sits on the task force, says he’s looking forward to reviewing what he characterizes as regulatory impediments to competition created by the state’s Public Service Commission and the Office of Regulatory Staff. Those entities regulate utilities in the state. He’s particularly interested in examining the impact of regulations that forbid third-party companies in South Carolina to sell electric power (such as solar) back to the grid without being legally deemed utilities.

“In my view that’s a serious handicap in the ability that we have as a state to create jobs and to generate GDP,” Beach told Free Times. “We are operating in the state what is effectively a complete monopoly. We have sanctioned it by regulation that confers the power to produce electric power entirely on two companies and one state-owned agency. That is anticompetitive.”

Frank Knapp, president of the Small Business Chamber of Commerce, says the state already has a panel designed to review regulations, called the Small Business Regulatory Review Committee, set up by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mark Sanford in 2004.

Monty Felix served as chairman of that committee from 2004 to 2012. He said the panel would review every proposed regulation on a monthly basis and determine whether there was any potential adverse impact on small business. But they didn’t look at already established regulations while he was there.

“Looking at proposed agency regs — and reading them and understanding them — on a monthly basis when you could have anywhere from two to 15 come out, that’s a lot of time,” he says.

According to Sue Berkowitz, director of the Appleseed Legal Justice Center, which advocates for the low-income community and consumers, too much of the talk about streamlining government revolves around taking barriers away from business. There’s no mention in the debate about agency regulations, she says, of making sure citizens are getting services well enough or that agencies are actually providing to the state what citizens need.

“It is never about, ‘How do we serve the people better’,” she says.


Original Article: http://www.free-times.com/news/end-of-red-tape-in-south-carolina-again

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