Uncertainty looms over all non-budget bills in the Legislature, and no one knows when, or if, lawmakers will have time to address issues such as a proposed one-year moratorium on state agency rulemaking.
But with Gov. Jan Brewer ordering an extension of her temporary ban on new rules and regulations from state agencies, legislators may still have time to tackle the issue before the session ends.
With the temporary suspension of the rulemaking process Brewer enacted in late January set to expire, the governor ordered a two-month extension of the ban on April 30. The new order keeps the suspension in effect until June 30, the deadline for lawmakers to approve a budget for fiscal 2010.
“My staff has been diligently and thoroughly reviewing all regulatory mandates set in motion by the previous administration,” Brewer stated in a press release. “We have already identified several administrative rules that are obsolete and should be repealed. Continuing this moratorium will allow state agencies additional time to perform due diligence in identifying rules that may be appropriately or inappropriately affecting our state, our citizens and Arizona’s economic vibrancy and potential.”
The House of Representatives already has passed a bill, H2240, that would suspend the implementation of any new rules or regulations by state agencies for one year. But with the Senate still declining to hear most bills until a budget deal is reached, it was clear that the rulemaking moratorium would not be passed before Brewer’s original order expired.
The extension will also give Brewer time to work with House Majority Whip Andy Tobin, who sponsored the moratorium bill, said Paul Senseman, the governor’s spokesman.
Tobin, a Paulden Republican, said he was pleased with Brewer’s decision to suspend new regulations that he feels restrict economic growth, but said it would send a stronger message to the business community if a moratorium came from the Legislature with broad bipartisan support.
Legislative approval would send “a message to the business community and companies looking to come to Arizona that they’ll have a business-friendly Legislature,” Tobin said. “An executive order may very well have the same impact from a strategy standpoint, but I’m not so sure it sends the same message as the Legislature and the governor’s signature does.”
During her Jan. 21 inauguration speech, Brewer focused on the need to make Arizona a more business-friendly state and expand its economic base. By issuing a three-month suspension of the rulemaking process a day later in her first official act as governor, Brewer reiterated her dedication to the issue as one of her top priorities.
“It is the governor’s belief that job creation and protection should be a top priority, and it is one of her top priorities since taking office. This is one of the extensions of that priority,” said Senseman.
Legislative Republicans have placed a high priority on the issue as well, and Tobin said a moratorium on new regulation would encourage investment and strengthen Arizona’s economy.
“We need to take a break from adding more government on the backs of the Arizona business community and on the backs of our citizens right now. By that, I mean Arizona’s been around a long time, and every year we find more and more rules,” said Tobin, who keeps a file listing rules and regulations that have been proposed by agencies. “There was something like 60 or 70 more regulations pending in several of our agencies. … God knows how many there are now.”
The ongoing review of previously enacted rules could lead Brewer to eliminate some existing regulations, and Senseman said the governor already has her eye on a few that might get the ax.
“It’s distinctly possible. I know that we have identified some that are no longer necessary due to changes in state or federal law, or case law, things like that. (There are also) some that are inconsistent with current agency practice or, in some cases, those that are not enforced,” Senseman said.
Senseman said Brewer has not expressed a preference as to whether she would rather see the moratorium continue via legislation or executive order, but that the Governor’s Office would work with Tobin and other lawmakers on the moratorium as the session continues.
“We’d like to just discuss it with them, what they’d prefer to do,” Senseman said.
Business interests are strongly in favor of the moratorium. Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Brewer’s stance on regulations and state agency rulemaking is encouraging.
“What the governor’s doing, I don’t think there’s any state in the country that I’m aware of that has embraced regulatory reform with this zeal,” Hamer said of Brewer’s January 22 order. “I thought that was a pretty productive way to begin her tenure.”
Tobin feels that preventing new rules from taking effect, or taking old ones off the books, will not only encourage businesses in Arizona, but will help reduce costs at state agencies, which he said are overregulated.
“Look at the education community. Just their budgetary requirements and all the regulations they have to follow – you’ve got to hire people to read all that stuff. It seems it’s better spent in the classroom,” he said.
Senseman said exceptions could be made to the rulemaking suspension if they were deemed critical to public health, public safety or the budget crisis, “but we’ll work out with leadership what the best format is that they would prefer.”
Tobin acknowledged government intervention is necessary in some situations. For example, he pointed to a bill introduced by Rep. Nancy McLain, a Republican from Bullhead City, that would authorize the state Game and Fish Department to create a program to identify and eradicate invasive species in Arizona’s waterways. The bill, he said, aims to combat quagga mussels, which have been found in lakes and rivers across the state.
“Clearly that is going to require some government intervention,” Tobin said. “My moratorium, at the same time, will say you can’t do that for a year. It’s OK to move forward on these kinds of things knowing there will be something coming on the back end.
“If this mussel is going to create problems in our waterways and also for our electrical power, for heaven’s sake, let’s do some of those things now. It’s not like everything’s gone forever if we put the moratorium on. It’s just like, let’s take a temporary break from this for a little bit and concentrate mostly on the budget crisis and the economy.”