Dispute over regulatory reform deep-sixes legislative session
The General Assembly tried but failed Thursday to clean up its act.
The House did not follow the Senate’s lead, and vote on House Bill 162, an act to clamp down on an ever-growing stack of agency regulations. Instead, the General Assembly will return Aug. 18.
H.B. 162 would amend administrative laws to make it easier for the state Rules Review Commission to scrap the current review process. Too often outdated, ineffective, and forgotten regulations remain in place.
The measure passed 28-10 in the Senate, but went nowhere in the House. Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, objected to putting the conference report on Thursday’s calendar for action. She withdrew her objection after House Speaker Tim Moore, D-Cleveland, advised her that the House would have to return Friday to debate the bill.
Moore put the House recess until 8:15 p.m., but eventually sent the bill to the Rules Committee.
The General Assembly will reconvene in two weeks, rather than Sept. 6 as previously scheduled.
When lawmakers return, they will deal with court-ordered legislative redistricting, revising the state’s judicial and district attorney divisions, and redrawing districts for city, county, and other political subdivisions. Conference reports, and bills relating to election laws also could be considered.
Support for the original version of H.B. 162 was strong. The House passed it 113-2, but the Senate amended it, and a conference committee crafted a compromise.
Garth Dunklin, chairman of the Rules Review Commission, has advocated reforms that were included in the bill.
He told Carolina Journal in a December interview that he supported streamlining the three ways agency regulations were handled. Too many agencies were skirting legislation requiring them to determine whether their rules were still necessary.
The compromise H.B. 162 mandates agencies subject to Rules Review Commission oversight to conduct a review at least once every 10 years to determine whether a rule is necessary or unnecessary.
Public comment must be taken, the Rules Review Commission would evaluate the agency recommendation, and a commission report would go to a joint legislative oversight committee for final approval.
The bill eliminates an option for agencies to avoid public comment and review by simply saying a regulation is necessary, thus avoiding public comment and review about its impact on those it affects.
“When 61 percent of the rules that are going through this process are staying in the code with no change, they’re not getting the full exposure to public comment or careful examination,” Dunklin told CJ. That “bothers us from a policy standpoint.”
Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, supports reforming the state’s rules review process, including a sunset provision.
“As rules pile up, they can become real obstacles to economic growth,” and should be re-examined periodically to determine if they are obsolete, or not working as intended, Sanders wrote in one report.
According to a study by Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, in 2015 state regulations cost North Carolina’s economy as much as $25.5 billion.