The Real World Impact of the 375 New State Regulations Imposed in 2011
Governor Gregoire’s office released a report yesterday saying that Executive Order 10-06, which suspended non-critical agency rulemaking through the end of 2011, “accomplished its intended purpose of conserving limited public resources and reducing impacts on small businesses during this recession.”
According to the report, 75 rules were eliminated and 483 were put on hold because of the moratorium. The report also acknowledges that the number of temporary “emergency” rules increased in 2011 (from 459 in 2010 to 516 in 2011), but explains the increase as “related to the significant budget reductions adopted when the Legislature finalized the state’s 2011–13 biennial operating budget.”
Governor Gregoire deserves praise for her effort to provide much-needed regulatory relief to small businesses during the tough economy. There was a welcome reduction in the number of proposed and adopted new, permanent rules in 2011 compared to the previous year (452 new rules were proposed in 2011 versus 663 proposed in 2010 and 375 adopted in 2011 versus 589 adopted in 2010). This progress is not nearly enough, though, to provide meaningful relief to the small business owners struggling to navigate the state’s bewildering regulatory maze.
Agency rulemaking activity tracked by the Office of the Code Reviser reveals there is much more to 375 new regulations than meets the eye. That simplistic number belies the true volume of regulatory changes to which individuals and small businesses are subject.
Those 375 new regulations imposed on citizens by the state fill 5,099 pages. And consider this—one rule filing can impose dozens of changes to different sections of the Washington Administrative Code. One rule filing might contain one change to a WAC Section, while another could contain 800 WAC changes (this is an arbitrary example, but there is no limit on how many WAC sections a rule may change). So while 375 new, permanent rules were adopted last year, those 375 rules added 1,410 permanent changes to the WAC.
When one factors in the changes to WAC sections resulting from total rulemaking activity—the amendment of existing rules, the adoption of new rules and the repeal of existing rules—it amounts to 5,935 sections of code changed in just one year (not including the WAC changes resulting from the 516 emergency rules). All during a supposed rulemaking moratorium.
Today, regulations in our state fill 32 phone-book-size volumes, which together form a stack of paper over five feet high. These agency rules have the force of law, and every individual and small business owner must know, understand and follow them. The regulatory structure strangles small businesses, drives up the cost of entering the market, impedes job creation and increases the cost of living for consumers.
While the Governor’s moratorium on agency rulemaking brought some welcome relief, Washington Policy Center has long-recommended a much more comprehensive reform of our state’s regulatory process. We believe the Governor should review and approve new agency regulations, and all agency regulations should include a five-year sunset provision, with Legislative review and possible reauthorization at the end of that period.