Growth & Development

No Bold Regulatory Reforms On Tap

Regulatory Review Report Still a Draft, In Haley’s Hands

By Porter Barron Jr.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Gov. Nikki Haley appointed a task force to review state regulations. Photo by Sean Rayford

Gov. Nikki Haley now has a new tool in her mission to streamline government: a detailed look at how state regulations affect businesses in South Carolina.

The 10-member Regulatory Review Task Force, appointed by Haley’s executive order in February, submitted a draft of its final report to the governor for review in mid-November. It has not yet made public its recommendations on how South Carolina might alleviate regulatory burdens on business.

A copy of the draft report obtained by Free Times shows that many existing regulations appear to have been tailored to benefit big businesses the most. The report also indicates how the task force resolved internal disagreements over some of its members’ more controversial proposals. 

No bold reforms pop out.

For example, the task force only recommends that “consideration should be given” by the Public Service Commission to allowing “third party leasing” of alternative energies, such as wind and solar, from private entities — a measure that big utilities have blocked so far, claiming that anyone who owns solar panels and wants to sell solar energy must qualify as a traditional utility.

At a Sept. 19 meeting, Phil Waddell, who represents the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce on the Task Force, highlighted third-party solar leasing as a sensible reform with plenty of research indicating that it would lower electricity costs for small businesses and spur new economic development. But others on the Task Force worried that legions of utilities lobbyists bent on protecting their clients’ lack of competition would swarm future Task Force meetings and impede its mission.

The task force also rejected a hardline effort to sunset each of the 3,122 regulations at all 22 state agencies every five years, led by Rep. Eric Bedingfield (R-Greenville). The report recommends only that each agency review its own regulations every five years, as poorly enforced legislation already requires.

Different sections of the draft report read differently, underscoring why the authors, who were scrambling to meet their Nov. 15 deadline, likely wanted to keep calling the report a “draft” at this point. For example, the Department of Agriculture section could stand alone as a policy paper, clearly advocating that small-scale producers of eggs, honey and poultry should be exempt from regulations intended for large-scale operators and that cheese does not need to be regulated separately from other dairy products.

The section on the Department of Health and Environmental Control, on the other hand, refers to regulations by number and issues terse prescriptions for each, the meaning of which is unclear unless the reader cross-references them with DHEC’s regulation manual.

It does appear, however, that the task force endorses lifting the DHEC regulation that requires midwives to have “extra width doors,” leaving one to speculate on the thought process of the bureaucrat who made sure expecting mothers could squeeze in and out of their intended birthing parlors.

Haley’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the draft report, leaving its fate — presumably either implementation or mothballs — unclear for now.

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