Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Governor Hogan Should Reestablish the Regulatory Reform Commission

At the beginning of each year, for the past three years, Free State Foundation President Randolph May and I have published a Perspectives from FSF Scholars addressing the meaningful progress made by Governor Larry Hogan’s Regulatory Reform Commission (RRC). In December 2017, the RRC published its final report identifying 844 outdated or unnecessary regulations over its three-year term, which Governor Hogan ultimately eliminated or altered in some way. Now that Governor Hogan has been reelected for a second term, he should reestablish the Commission with the goal of achieving further regulatory reform over the next four years.

In January 2016, Randolph May and I commended Governor Hogan for creating the RRC, and we suggested ways Maryland could reform its regulatory process. Specifically, we proposed that Maryland consolidate its twenty departments into just eight. We also suggested creating a “sunset” date for all new regulations. This would require that regulations expire after a certain period of time if they are not affirmatively readopted by the sunset date.
In January 2017, we applauded the RRC for identifying 187 regulations that it found “redundant, unreasonable, unnecessary, unduly burdensome or obsolete.” We also recommended that Maryland adopt a central office within the executive branch to review regulations before they are promulgated to determine whether the projected benefits outweigh the costs – similar to the Office of the Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the federal level. The office certainly doesn't need to be large, but it should be led by an economist with expertise in cost-benefit analysis.
In January 2018, we highlighted the RRC’s final report, which recommended 657 changes to outdated or unnecessary regulations that Governor Hogan ultimately accepted. And we took the opportunity to repeat some of our earlier proposals for process reform in Maryland.
Governor Hogan made a worthy effort during his first term to eliminate unnecessary or outdated regulations as part of his effort to stimulate Maryland's economy and improve its business climate. As I noted in an October 2018 blog, Governor Hogan’s tax and regulatory reform had a positive impact on Maryland’s overall fiscal condition. And according to some studies, Maryland’s business climate has improved over the past several years relative to other states. (See here and here.)
Although the Regulatory Reform Commission did a good job identifying nearly 850 regulations that were outdated or unnecessary and Governor Hogan wisely accepted the Commission’s recommendations, there certainly are areas where Maryland can further improve, like reducing occupational licensing requirements. Now that Governor Hogan will be returning to Maryland’s gubernatorial seat for another four years, he should reestablish the Regulatory Reform Commission and direct the Commission to continue its work searching for unnecessary and costly regulations to eliminate or modify.
The RRC also should be tasked with identifying unnecessary taxes and fees that stifle competitive entry and artificially raise prices for consumers. Given the positive impact that broadband and wireless services have on Maryland’s economy, the RRC particularly should focus on eliminating or reducing excessively high taxes and fees that slow broadband deployment and harm consumers.
In a forthcoming blog, I will discuss how Maryland’s burdensome regulations and fees stifle broadband deployment and how its exorbitantly high wireless tax rates negatively impact consumers.