Dems, advocates urge caution on rules ban

A measure that would stop state agencies from making new rules is on its way to the Senate floor after its unanimous committee approval this morning.

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Laura Leslie

A measure that would stop state agencies from making new rules is on its way to the Senate floor after unanimous approval in the chamber's Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee this morning.

The bill, S22, would ban agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other regulatory bodies from making new rules that would raise costs for anyone subject to the rule. Since just about every rule has some cost, that would exclude most of them, except those that fit into five narrowly drawn categories.  

If an agency wants a new regulation that doesn't fit into those categories, it would have to come before the legislature, which would assess its relative costs and  benefits.

Committee member Sen. Bob Atwater, D-Durham, didn’t vote against the measure, but afterward, he said he's concerned about its likely effect on the General Assembly’s workload. “Rule-making is by law placed in the hands of the experts to deal with these things broadly. We would have to be dealing with some mighty particular matters here, and we’re not particularly used to doing that.”

Tom Bean with the N.C. Wildlife Federation urged lawmakers to be “very cautious,” noting that many regulations provide more benefit than they cost. He added that the current system already allows legislators to review and throw out rules they don’t like.

“It’s already very difficult to adopt rules that are needed. It takes years, often,” Bean said.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston, described S22 today as a “time-out” on new regulation, but Bean disagreed.

“There’s no sunset on it,” Bean argued. “So it’s not actually a timeout. It’s actually a prohibition on future rule-making. There are situations that arise that we would hope the state would be able to respond to promptly. And even right now, promptly is not very promptly.”

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