Michigan voters can expect to hear much debate
about state tax and labor policy in this election year, and these are
undeniably important. However, they will not matter as much if we do not get
the regulatory policy right.
requirements are the gate that job providers must pass through in order to
conduct business in the state. Let's see who is serious about opening that
gate. Candidates for state elective offices should be asked to sign the
following "Regulatory Reform Pledge."
Candidates signing — and acting on — this regulatory pledge would send a signal that Michigan welcomes new business.
Do No More Harm — I will not support any
legislation, policy or ordinance that increases the cost of doing business in
the state or does not provide a clear and compelling benefit to the environment
and the public health.
No More Stringent Than Federal Requirements — I
support legislation that prevents any state agency from promulgating rules or
policies that are more stringent than federal requirements without the
Legislature's explicit approval.
Regulatory Review — I support legislation requiring
that all regulations sunset every five years and mandating legislative review
of the regulations' cost-effectiveness before they are considered for renewal.
Cost and Benefit of Regulation — I support
legislation that requires all proposed regulations be subjected to an
independent cost-benefit analysis before they are voted on.
Timely Permitting — I support legislation that
requires the state to grant or reject all licenses and permits within a
reasonable timeframe. State agencies that fail to meet those timeframes would
return the applicant's license or permit fee, and the license or permit would
be considered approved.
No More Unfair Tax Treatment — I will not
support targeted tax breaks for individual businesses or sectors of the
economy. I will instead support treating all businesses in the state equitably.
Agency Policy Not Binding — I support
legislation that affirms the legal principle that policy issued by state
agencies in any form is not binding on the regulated community unless the policy
is promulgated through the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act.
Maintain Only Core State Regulatory Programs — I
support a legislative review of all state regulatory programs to determine
programs essential to the public safety and welfare of Michigan residents. I do
not support funding for the continuation of any nonessential regulatory
upholding this pledge could produce real change. Officeholders from both major
political parties claim the economy and jobs are their major concerns, but
often vote for more job-killing regulations.
myriad problems Michigan faces, there is some hope on the horizon. Several
pieces of legislation introduced last year are cause for optimism and reflect a
shift in policy that I advocated for five years ago and are consistent with the
pledge. They include:
Senate Bill 434, which would prohibit state
agencies from promulgating rules that are more stringent than federal standards
without legislative approval.
Senate Bill 435, which would require state
agencies to prepare an annual regulatory plan to identify existing rules and
whether they should be continued. The proposed legislation also requires
agencies and legislative committees periodically to assess rules' impact on
436, which would mandate an expedited review of permits and remedial action
plans required under state environmental laws. If an applicant hires an
engineer certified by the Department of Environmental Quality, the agency must
adjudicate the permit within 21 days or the application is considered approved.
Senate Bills 602 and 603 would transfer the
forest program from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of
Agriculture and create a "right-to-forest" act. The DNR has consistently failed
to offer enough timber for sale that even equals the amount of timber growth in
state forests (foresters refer to this as the allowable cut).
signing — and acting on — this regulatory pledge would send a signal that
Michigan welcomes new business. It is past time for Michigan candidates to take
a stand on the critical issue of regulatory reform and to show they are indeed
serious about getting government out of the way of job providers.
Russ Harding is senior environmental
analyst and director of the Property Rights Network at the Mackinac Center for
Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland,
Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted,
provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.