Next week, the North Carolina House has the opportunity to uphold Governor Perdue’s veto of Senate Bill 781  (SB 781). Supporters of this legislation allege that it will increase regulatory efficiency on environmental issues. A closer look reveals that it will affect other regulations to protect children in day care centers, the elderly through Medicare and those that use hospital services. And what’s worse, the legislation is likely to swell rulemaking, create more red tape for state regulators and delay regulations – all on the backs of state departments that are financially strapped.
This is an effort to de-wonk this legislation that matters to all of us.
Last week, the NC Senate overrode the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 781 by a vote of 48-0. During the regular session, some legislators supported the bill because of ONE good provision – it would give state employees a fairer way to settle grievances.
Key Aspect of the Legislation: Significant changes in the way rules are made in North Carolina.
- new ‘principles’ for rulemaking will be codified and require ALL agencies to review ALL existing rules annually for compliance with the ‘principles’. While the principles appear reasonable, codify them and they are no longer principles, they are instruction. And an annual review of all existing rules will be ridiculously cumbersome.
- the definition of ‘substantial economic impact’ (total costs +benefits) is lowered from $3 million to $500,000. All rules exceeding that amount must have a fiscal analysis. This will add to the work of agencies that have already had serious budget cuts.
How This Will Play Out for You and Me:
- Rules for child care center sanitation, disease-reporting that makes it possible to catch and prevent human and animal epidemics, decisions in which hospitals get critical pieces of medical equipment, which procedures are covered by Medicare and anything to do with training and certification for licensed professions from health care to engineers will be affected.
- Projects that would normally require review under the State Environmental Policy Act will be exempt if they are receiving a major Coastal Area Management Act permit; length of permits will be expanded from 5 to 8 years and NC DENR is required to weaken enforcement against violators.
The Real Story:
While everyone can agree that there is always room for a review of how government agencies operate, SB 781 does the opposite of its stated intention – create more efficiency in government. This legislation will likely impose more rulemaking and tear down some rules at the same time, cause longer delays in rulemaking and bring more red tape to the processes. SB 781 will be grounds for litigation due to some of its ambiguity and substantially increase the workload of state workers. Does any of this sound more efficient to you?
What You Can Do:
There is a razor thin margin to maintain the Governor’s veto of this legislation in the House. Folks involved in policy and rulemaking at the state agency level should contact their House Representative immediately  and urge them to sustain the veto.
And while the provision to improve state employee grievances is important, it should not be addressed on efforts by conservatives that seek to break the back of departments charged with protecting public health and the environment.