OP-ED: Pa.'s regulations limiting our economic success
Despite record low unemployment and rising wages, three-quarters of Pennsylvania counties have lost residents to other counties and states. Why? Pennsylvania has a poor business climate.
The solution — regulatory reform. By cutting the red tape we can empower employees, improve government accountability, and expand Pennsylvania’s economy.
Pennsylvania has so many regulations on the books, even the experts have lost count. A group from George Mason University in Washington, D.C., compiled the total number of regulations based on keyword searches of our state’s laws and found that we have more than 153,000 regulations on the books. Even that estimate could be low.
You only need to look as far as your own garage to find examples of government run amok. Even the stepladder we keep tucked away to change a light bulb or clean the gutters was created in spite of more than 200 regulations governing its design and use.
A few weeks ago, I stood with fellow legislators, local and state business leaders and employee advocates to push for a series of regulatory reforms that will truly help provide the platform for our commonwealth’s economic growth, retain workers, attract new talent and provide a brighter future to all Pennsylvanians.
The location of the event was fitting — in front of the former York Narrow Fabrics Co., which now serves as the site of the Kinsley Engineering Center at York College. York Narrow Fabrics was the site where the actual “red tape” was produced to package federal regulations in Washington, D.C. It is a stark reminder of the ghosts of the past that continue to haunt our commonwealth to this day.
One of the bills in the package that I am sponsoring would compile the number of regulations that exist in Pennsylvania and require two regulations to be removed for each new regulation that is added over the next five years. A similar law in British Columbia was so successful at cleaning up outdated laws — like telling bar owners the size of televisions they could use, or how many par four holes must be included on golf courses — they went from a one-in, two-out model to a one-in, five-out model.
Many employers also express their dissatisfaction with the state’s inconsistent permitting process. The entire process lacks any sense of transparency or accountability with little to no feedback offered until a permit is either approved or rejected.
If you purchase an item online, you can watch the shipping process from start to finish — from the warehouse to your front door. Permitting could and should use a similar process that is transparent and easy to follow. The House of Representatives recently approved legislation I am sponsoring in the Senate that would create this much-needed layer of transparency to the permitting process.
Another part of the regulatory reform package would provide greater oversight of regulations that cost taxpayers a large sum of money. The bill would require any regulation with an economic impact of more than $1 million to earn the approval of both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Legislation is also included to require each state agency to appoint a regulatory compliance officer, or someone who can answer questions and work with taxpayers to ensure compliance of existing state regulation.
Too often, small businesses are blindsided by state bureaucrats because of non-compliance with a certain regulation laced in the intricate web of state government. It is far past time for that complicated web to be unraveled so we can start treating small businesses like partners and less like criminals.
At the federal level, we have seen the dramatic success of cleaning out our nation’s federal regulations. Our federal unemployment rate is at 3.6 percent — the lowest in almost half a century — and the economy is booming. Due to the reduction of regulations at the federal level, federal agencies saved over $23 billion in 2018 alone.
At the end of the day, this legislative package starts treating taxpayers like consumers. Consumers who invest in this commonwealth. Consumers who work in this commonwealth. Consumers who pay the bills of this commonwealth.
The time is right to reform our state’s regulatory system. I look forward to working in the months ahead to ensure more accountability, rein in archaic and unnecessary regulations, and provide better customer service to Pennsylvania’s taxpayers.
— State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill is a Republican representing the 28th Senatorial District, which includes part of York County.