One of Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s most important initiatives was his decision nearly a year ago to accelerate the regulatory review required by Public Law 445.
The law requires that all state agencies and departments evaluate existing regulations for harmful impacts on small businesses in the course of four years. The governor cut that time period to 480 days.
Twelve rules have been identified so far for elimination of the estimated 1,642 that small businesses in Rhode Island must comply with. Fifty-three more regulations were marked for amendment or cited as redundant.
The urgency that Gov. Chafee brought to the table a year ago is admirable, but the response so far of the state bureaucracy has not matched his rhetoric. According to the report, only 27 of the state’s 47 agencies complied with the update law’s requirements (although they are said to represent more than 90 percent of the rules in question).
Perhaps more importantly, the second step of the review – calculating the size and frequency of the effects – fell woefully short of what it needs to be.
The reform office says that the next reports will be issued at a quicker pace and will include a mapping of the regulatory landscape. Excessive regulation is a key reason the state is so often cited on lists of the worst business climates in the nation.
Let us hope these next steps will produce the needed impetus to make a difference. There is little more important expenditure of state effort at the moment. •
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