Cutting Back On Regulations

A researcher’s recommendation that West Virginia legislators set arbitrary caps on the numbers of regulations state agencies can enforce sounds simplistic. As one lawmaker, Delegate Scott Brewer, D-Mason, put it, “How do you differentiate between good regulations and bad?”

On the other hand, however, does it make any more sense for government agencies at all levels — and yes, state legislatures and Congress — to issue hordes of new regulations every year based, for the most part, on bureaucrats’ hunches the rules may be necessary?

Brewer was reacting to comments by James Broughel during legislative interim committee meetings earlier this month. He told lawmakers the Mercatus Center at George Mason University has been researching the adverse effect of government regulations on the economy. “There’s increasing academic evidence that regulation, especially federal regulation, can be a drag on economic growth,” Broughel said.

West Virginia legislators can do nothing about federal regulations, of course. But Broughel said Mercatus Center researchers also are looking into how much of a drag state rules have on the economy.

Brace yourself for this: Broughel told lawmakers the center has determined West Virginia has 125,700 regulatory restrictions.

Some of them are necessary, of course. They safeguard the public, working men and women, the environment, etc.

But 125,700? Could not some of them be eliminated?

That idea is behind the center’s suggestion that states inform individual agencies of numerical limits on how many regulations they can have and enforce.

Addressing Brewer’s concern, Broughel noted such limits could force government to determine which regulations are important and which are not.

Yes, it is simplistic — but no more so than leaving every existing rule on the books with no consideration of whether they are necessary. Broughel’s idea ought to be given serious consideration by lawmakers during 2018.

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