Massachusetts Gov. Baker Cuts State’s Regulatory ‘Dead Wood’

Published September 13, 2016

State agencies in Massachusetts are continuing to revise thousands of state regulations and restrictions, cutting unnecessary or redundant government rules, and reducing regulatory barriers where possible.

In March 2015, Gov. Baker ordered all state government agencies to review the entire body of rules and regulations published by the government, seeking outdated or obsolete restrictions to be either updated or removed. In the executive order, Baker ordered government agencies to also reduce existing regulations to federally required standards, if necessary.

As of late August 2016, according to data published by the Massachusetts state government’s 2015-2016 Regulation Review Project, 251 out of 1,726 state regulations have been repealed or are scheduled to be repealed, and 696 have been amended or will be amended to comply with Baker’s directive.

Cleaning Out the Codes
Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, says he compares Baker’s project to clearing out a forest’s underbrush.

“The almost 250 rescissions of existing regulations are literally cleaning out dead wood,” Stergios said. “They amounted to meaningless paper. In some cases, relevant statutes were superseded by new laws, in others no relevant appropriations had been made for a decade.”

Stergios says government reviews of regulations help protect against special-interest groups’ lobbying efforts.

“The promulgation of regulations is a process inhabited by professional associations and lobbyists,” Stergios said. “One of the benefits of a periodic ‘scraping through’ of the regulations is that it serves as a warning shot against the bow as regards those interests that would like to ‘capture’ or protect self-interest by influencing regulatory definitions.”

‘A Positive Development’
Frank Conte, director of communications and information services at the Beacon Hill Institute, says regulatory reform is good for everyone.

 “Any regulatory reforms which reduce the friction between two parties that want to exchange is a positive development,” Conte said. “Any initiative that streamlines state government is always positive. The underbrush of massive pages of regulations needed some clearing.”

Conte says he hopes regulatory review becomes a regular habit for Massachusetts lawmakers.

“The systematic regulatory review undertaken by the Baker administration is a good start, but you can’t expect all needed regulatory fixes to get done in a single year,” Conte said. “A similar regulatory review should be part of every administration’s agenda, and should be regular practice every four years.  To be effective at governing, every incoming administration needs to be schooled in the depth and breadth of the regulatory state.”