BEWARE of Regulatory Reform!

Each day I scan legislative committee agendas to see what bills the committees are considering.

On Tuesday I didn’t notice any environmentally relevant bills on the agenda of the Senate Government Organization committee.  But then someone pointed out something I’d missed because it wasn’t a bill: they were hearing presentations on “regulatory reform.”

When I arrived the presentations were well under way, but the slide showing their summary list of “reforms” was still being projected. Here they are, from my (imperfect) notes:

  1. Agency rule review
  2. H.B. 4002 – putting a five-year sunset on rules created or changed after April 1, 2016.
  3. H.B. 4031 – requiring agencies to respond to comments received
  4. Rules repeal bill
  5. Rulemaking reform
  6. Small business regulatory review commission that would review proposed rules and assess their economic impact.
  7. Regulatory flexibility act. It seems that back in 2003, Governor Bob Wise signed an executive order to establish a regulatory review commission in WV and to require state agencies to work with the commission to identify rules that hurt small business and hinder economic growth.  Apparently the program was never implemented, so the idea here is to put it into statute.
  8. H.B. 2269, which specifies that rules promulgated by state agencies may “be no more stringent than corresponding federal law or regulations.” This bill is a holdover from last year. Go here to read our newsletter article about it.
  9. Air rule bill

The presenters cited Forbes’ 2015 ranking of “Best States for Business,” which puts West Virginia–you guessed it–in 50th place.

If you scroll down the Forbes article and click on the “full list” link, you’ll see that WV is ranked #50 for two out of six parameters:  regulatory environment and labor supply. And if you then click on the “gallery” link, you’ll find the following verbage on WV’s slide:

“Population growth has been the worst in the U.S. and the state’s college attainment is also at the bottom with only 19% of the population over the age of 25 holding a college degree.”

So maybe we should find a way to avoid cutting funding for education.  Maybe foregoing a proposed decrease in the coal severance tax would help with that.  And maybe retaining adequate water protections will dissuade some people from leaving the state.

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