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Brewer’s office: No word on regulatory reform

Eleven months after vowing to slash regulations on Arizona businesses, Gov. Jan Brewer still isn’t saying what existing regulations she will strike down.

In Brewer’s inaugural speech after taking the oath of office, she said she would make it a priority to remove the burden of regulations on Arizona’s businesses. The next day, she ordered a moratorium on state agency rulemaking.

Since then, however, there’s been a lot of talk and no action.

The governor’s spokesman, Paul Senseman, said last week that he was unsure how much work had been done to develop a plan to change the state’s regulations.

Lawmakers and special interest groups say budget work has gotten in the way of progress on regulatory reform.

Byron Schlomach, director of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Economic Prosperity, said he hopes the governor and lawmakers have used the moratorium to take a closer look at regulations that need to be overhauled.

“I haven’t noticed anything in particular getting accomplished in that area,” Schlomach said. “The budget has been on everybody’s mind, and it’s slowed down everything.”

Rep. Andy Tobin, the House majority whip, said he is waiting for details on the administration’s plans.

Sen. Steve Pierce, the Senate majority whip, said the Governor’s Office has talked to legislative leadership about regulatory reform but hasn’t provided details.

“I think they’ve just scratched the surface. Everybody’s working on the budget right now. Nobody’s looking into this stuff,” Pierce said.

Brewer’s office seems to be in the beginning stages of forming a plan to end some regulations. Donna Davis, CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association, said her organization has been asked by the Governor’s Office and Legislature to provide some input on regulatory changes for the 2010 legislative session. Davis said the association would do so in the next few weeks.

In January, Brewer’s first official act as governor was to freeze the state agency rulemaking process, under which department heads initiated new regulations on their own accord. That moratorium has been extended through fiscal 2010.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Republican from Snowflake, introduced a bill in 2009 that would allow homebuilders and others in the construction industry to begin work on projects while waiting for permits.

That bill fell victim to a Senate embargo on non-budget legislation that was in effect for most of the 2009 regular session. By the time the embargo was lifted, neither chamber was able to address the hundreds of bills that been caught in the bottleneck. Allen said she will introduce the bill again in 2010, as well as a bill that would grant the Legislature the exclusive authority to regulate car-exhaust emissions.

“Things will be different this year,” Allen said. “This budget has
consumed us all.”

Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, said the moratorium should have been followed by action to loosen existing restrictions on businesses. Instead, he said, Brewer and the Legislature made counterproductive moves. Budget legislation passed by the Legislature granted the Arizona Department of Health Services the authority to raise licensing fees for child-care centers and preschools.

Gould said the governor and lawmakers should have used the months-long bill embargo in the Senate to methodically analyze Arizona’s existing regulations to determine which ones should be loosened or rescinded.

“If the governor and the Legislature are so concerned with regulatory reform, why did they give the authority to set their own fees to department directors? Essentially, what they did by doing that was they made those guys unaccountable.” Gould said. “It’s probably something we both should’ve been taking a harder look at. And we had plenty of time to do that.”

Brewer took issue with the notion that nothing had been done on regulatory reform since the moratorium took effect.

“Nothing much has been done? Well that’s why you put a moratorium on it,” Brewer said. “I believe that our rules and regulations were stymieing economic development, putting a lot of unnecessary requirements on people, so I put a moratorium on it in an effort to make doing business better in Arizona.”

Glenn Hamer, president and CEO or the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said no governor in the United States has done more for regulatory reform than Brewer.

“We couldn’t ask for a better champion,” said Hamer. The chamber’s agenda for the 2010 session includes a further extension of the rulemaking moratorium and stricter guidelines for the admission of scientific evidence in lawsuits against companies.

The Goldwater Institute wants some professions, such as nursing, to license and accredit people through industry organizations instead of through the state. The group also wants to shorten the time businesses must wait for permits from state agencies.

Michelle Bolton, vice president of public affairs and economic development for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, said her group wants a “one-stop shop” to guide businesses through Arizona’s regulatory requirements. She also wants state agencies to include detailed economic impact statements in the proposed rules packages.

Marc Osborn, a lobbyist with R&R Partners who is representing the chamber’s Manufacturers Council, said he has spoken with the Governor’s Office and members of the Legislature about a package that would extend the rules moratorium, make it easier to obtain information on government regulations, give businesses the ability to petition against proposed regulations and allow businesses to correct violations of existing regulations before they face punitive action.

“If we can get most of all of that through we’d be pretty ecstatic,” Osborn said.

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