North Carolina has so many regulations it would take a dozen 40-hour weeks, reading 300 words per minute, to navigate the state administrative code, researchers say.

The code contains 109,350 restrictions and some 8.7 million words. The most restrictive regulations involve utilities. Nursing and residential care facilities and ambulatory health care services come next. The three industries account for 45 percent of the industry-specific regulations among the top 10 industries in a study released Tuesday.

Research academics James Broughel and Daniel Francis at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University reached those conclusions in the study.

Mercatus researchers developed a software platform to analyze and quantify state regulatory text. It allows them to capture information in minutes that might otherwise take weeks or years to find.

As reported by Carolina Journal, North Carolina is the 14th state studied as part of a more ambitious project to determine the volume of regulations in all 50 states. New York has the most — 307,636, and Arizona the fewest, 63,919.

CJ graphic

Jay Singleton is a New Bern ophthalmologist who has been critical of the state’s certificate of need laws, which protect existing hospitals and some health-care providers from competition. He found the “sizeable chunk” of restrictions on nursing and residential care facilities, and ambulatory health clinics intriguing. Those industries are heavily regulated under CON laws.

“These are all regulations that have been here for a very long time, and are bogging down the system,” Singleton said.

“We need to have a way to revisit our laws, our regulations, and make them more agile, and make them fit the needs of our health care systems as they’ve evolved into the 21st century,” Singleton said. “These are just old, antiquated regulations that we do every day just to keep the status quo, and they’re not helping anybody.”

In their report, Broughel and Francis say the regulatory burdens go beyond the state level. The 112 million-word U.S. Code of Federal Regulations contains another 1.15 million restrictions on industries.

“Researchers are only beginning to understand the consequences of the massive and growing federal regulatory system on economic growth and well-being in the United States,” they wrote.

“Meanwhile, the effects of state regulation remain largely unknown,” they said. If the snapshot they developed of North Carolina regulation is a good indicator, it suggests “the true impact of regulation on society is far greater than that of federal regulation alone.”