Lawmakers urged to REIN in regulations

Published February 4, 2016

by Barry Smith, Carolina Journal, February 3, 2016.

Free market advocates on Tuesday urged lawmakers to adopt a measure that could curtail some regulations placed on North Carolina businesses and individuals.

“Every rule has a cost on those who have to comply with it,” Becki Gray, vice president for outreach at the John Locke Foundation, told the Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee.

Gray urged the legislators to pass a bill dubbed the REINS Act. REINS is an acronym for Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny.

“The least regulated industries over time have proven to grow faster and the more regulated industries have grown slower,” said Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation. “Red tape is producing a cumulative drag on the economy.”

Sanders said that a REINS Act should apply to rules that have “substantial economic impact.” He reminded committee members that state statutes already refer to substantial impact as financial impact of at least $1 million in the state during a 12-month period.

“Rules are made by executive agencies through delegated power from the legislature,” Sanders said. “Rules carry the full force of law. But they are not made by legislators who are directly accountable to voters.”

Rep. Elmer Floyd, D-Cumberland, expressed concerns about such a proposal from a time and management point of view.

“At some point in time, we as legislators just can’t micromanage our agencies,” Floyd said.

Floyd noted that traditionally the General Assembly is in session only six months during its long-session years, and three months during short session years.

After the meeting, Floyd suggested that it might be more appropriate for such rules and regulations to go through the administrative procedures process.

“Then the Office of Administrative Hearings can make suggestions and recommendations that they would like to see the General Assembly make to adjust the statute,” Floyd said.

Gray said that a REINS Act would require both chambers of the General Assembly to adopt a joint resolution approving major rules. It would also require the governor’s signature.

“REINS is a good governance proposal,” Sanders said. “It’s striking a balance between agencies being able to carry out the will of a legislature efficaciously — effectively — but preventing them from overstepping their bounds or from the legislature giving up a little too much authority and allowing them to pass rules that may have deleterious effects.”