In a major step to benefit businesses and consumers, Arkansas has significantly reduced the regulatory burden it imposes on its citizens. This month, the Arkansas Legislature approved the elimination of more than 800 regulations that it determined to be outdated, unnecessary, or duplicative.
At the press conference announcing this much-needed regulatory cleansing, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson stood next to a small mountain of 15,000 pages of paper that represented the hundreds of now-invalid regulations. The stack was nearly as tall as Hutchinson himself!
Signed into law in 2017, Act 781, also known as the Housecleaning Bill, requires all state agencies to review every regulation on the books and then identify all obsolete rules. In total, state agencies assessed nearly 3,400 regulations.
“Cleaning up Arkansas government and making it work better for the people is something we are always striving to do,“ said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jim Dotson (R-Bentonville). “With Act 781, Arkansas just took a huge step toward that goal by cutting bureaucratic red tape almost 25 percent … This will reduce the hassle of government for all Arkansans, by making government more straightforward and less complex.“
Arkansas’ repeal of hundreds of redundant regulations will certainly produce a more streamlined, less stressful bureaucracy, benefitting government workers and Natural State residents. Fewer regulations will usher in economic growth and job creation.
Federal regulations have, on average, dragged down the annual growth rate of the U.S. gross domestic product by 0.8 percent since 1980, according to a Mercatus Center study. If regulations had been held constant at levels observed in 1980, the U.S. economy would have been about 25 percent ($4 trillion) larger than it actually was in 2012.
The Housecleaning Bill is a great model for other states to adopt, but states shouldn’t stop there. States should also enact the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. Under the REINS Act, any agency that proposes a regulation that would cost more than an agreed-upon monetary threshold must modify the rule to reduce its cost, pull back the rule, or request legislation be passed authorizing the rule. With REINS in place, legislators can hold a public hearing and/or request an independent economic impact analysis of all proposed rules.
In 2017, Wisconsin passed the first state-level REINS Act, which mandates all proposed regulations estimated to have more than $10 million in implementation and compliance costs over a two-year period undergo modification or review. This year, Tennessee lawmakers introduced a REINS Act in both the state’s legislative chambers that would establish mandatory review of a proposed agency rule that would cost more than a $1 million over a three-year period.
The one-two punch of a REINS Act and a Housecleaning law would serve as a prospective and retrospective measure that could ensure the regulations put in place by unelected bureaucrats do not hamper the economy or constrain personal liberty. It is important that legislators be held accountable for the promulgations, good or bad, of state agencies, and these reforms would accomplish that goal while also ensuring government doesn’t unnecessarily obstruct economic growth.
What We’re Working On
Pennsylvania Should Embrace Expansion of Telemedicine
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines a bill moving through the Pennsylvania General Assembly that would expand telemedicine access and create reimbursement parity with in-person services. “Telemedicine has the potential to provide routine health care services to more people at a lower cost than traditional in-person delivery. Unfortunately, unnecessary and burdensome government regulations continue to stifle access to telemedicine services for many Americans,” wrote Glans.
Budget & Tax
Bad Stadium Deals Hurt Cities Large and Small
In this Research & Commentary, Glans discusses stadium subsidies and their negligible benefits for local economies. As Glans notes, in many instances, even small arenas have had a disastrous impact on local budgets. “Stadium subsidies are a poor use of taxpayer money. They rarely realize the benefits their supporters claim, and they often shift tax revenue away from more-pressing needs. Cities and states seeking to improve their economic competitiveness shouldn’t rely on professional sports teams. Instead, they should reduce taxes and invest in more cost-effective improvements, such as new and improved infrastructure,” Glans wrote.
Voucher Programs Are Saving Taxpayers Billions of Dollars
This Research & Commentary by Policy Analyst Tim Benson analyzes a new audit of 16 voucher programs in nine states and the District of Columbia by EdChoice. The study concludes these programs have generated cumulative net savings to state and local budgets of $3.2 billion. This equates to $3,400 saved per child enrolled in school voucher programs. In fiscal year 2015 alone, these programs produced more than $408 million in total savings. The report is an update of a 2014 EdChoice study that reported savings of $1.7 billion for 10 voucher programs through fiscal year 2011.
Energy & Environment
Fracking Has Turned the United States into the World’s Leading Oil Producer
This Research & Commentary, Benson examines the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest “Short Term Energy Outlook,“ which reports that the United States has likely become the largest crude oil producer in the world, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia. EIA estimates U.S. crude oil production averaged 10.9 million barrels per day (b/d) in August and forecasts U.S. crude oil production will average 10.7 million b/d in 2018, up from 9.4 million b/d in 2017. It also estimated the industry will average 11.5 million b/d in 2019. The fracking revolution has fueled this productivity surge, increasing the output of U.S. oil by 84 percent over the past decade.
From Our Free-Market Friends
Debunking the Top Myths Regarding Higher Education
In a new report, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) debunks 11 myths about higher education. One of the myths TPPF discredits is that public universities protect the First Amendment on their campuses. Unfortunately, several prominent Texas colleges have earned the lowest rating possible for free–speech protections. Another myth exposed by TPPF is the public is satisfied with how colleges are managed. As TPPF notes, a recent survey found 80 percent of Texans believe colleges and universities in the Lone Star State could be run more efficiently. Furthermore, 71 percent of Texans believe state schools can improve education quality while simultaneously reducing outrageous operating costs.
Click here to subscribe to The Leaflet, the weekly government relations e-newsletter.