Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — A Republican-backed proposal to bar state government agencies from enacting new regulations on North Carolina individuals and businesses passed its first legislative hurdle this week, foreshadowing a potential fight with legislative Democrats and Gov. Bev Perdue.
Senate Bill 22, which passed the Senate Agriculture Committee with little debate or fanfare Tuesday, would amend statutory law to prohibit new regulations that would hit North Carolinians in the pocketbook. The moratorium wouldn’t affect regulations already on the books.
The legislation is part of a two-bill package put forth by Senate Republicans aimed at reforming the state’s regulatory environment. The second measure, Senate Bill 17, would create a joint House and Senate study committee to research the regulatory environment and make recommendations to the General Assembly. It passed the Senate Tuesday afternoon.
Also on Tuesday, Perdue announced regulatory reforms of her own. She recommended that legislators eliminate 900 rules and regulations she deems “unnecessary and excessive.” Another 1,200 rules are in the hopper awaiting review and potentially could be scrapped as well.
Perdue issued an executive order in October banning all new rulemaking by cabinet-level agencies. The order doesn’t apply to agencies such as the Department of Public Instruction and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Republicans have praised their own proposals as a boost to North Carolina’s economy.
“Regulatory reform is probably one of the single most important things we can do to help improve the business climate in North Carolina,” said Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston, a primary sponsor of both bills.
Rouzer wouldn’t give specific examples of burdensome rules, but said that government agencies have created more than 15,000 new regulations and changes during the last decade.
“There is no telling how many regulations there are on the books that have prevented folks from keeping the job that they have and from getting new jobs,” he said.
The regulatory-freeze bill does contain a number of exceptions where the ban wouldn’t apply, among them a scenario in which public health is endangered.
Democrats are receiving the proposals with a wary eye. “You don’t have to stop running the state in order to have job creation. That’s never been the case,” said Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.
Republicans used the bills as a springboard to criticize Perdue. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Eden, said the GOP’s reforms are “more effective” at curbing harmful regulations than Perdue’s past efforts have been.
“The governor has been talking about moving forward and making the business climate better and dealing with regulations for the past two years,” Berger said. “We’ve been in the majority in the North Carolina Senate for two weeks, and we’re actually doing something about it.”
Asked about Berger’s remarks at a press conference, Perdue said she didn’t care who gets credit for the reforms.
“I refuse to get in this partisan battle,” she said. “I don’t think the people of North Carolina want a partisan battle … If [Republicans] want to fight about semantics, I’m not going to be a part of that.”
Perdue also praised the General Assembly’s Republican majority for taking up the regulatory-reform issue.
“I’m delighted to see that they want to do it,” she said.
David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.