Ohio lawmakers want to reduce the number of regulations in the Buckeye State, saying it will make the state more business friendly and help improve the economy.
House Bill 115 and Senate Bill 1 would require state agencies to reduce their rules and regulations by 30 percent by 2022. Any agency that cannot pare down its regulations must remove two regulations for every new one it proposes.
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Ohio’s Administrative Code has 15.2 million words and more than 246,800 "unique restrictions," according to state Sen. Kristina D. Roegner, R-Hudson, a co-sponsor of SB1.
"It’s good and important to have rules and regulations in place for the safety and well-being of our citizens," state Rep. Craig S. Riedel, R-Defiance, a co-sponsor of HB 115, said in an interview. "I think it’s also safe to say we’ve gone beyond that, and that because of the excessiveness, it’s a drag on our economy."
A state analysis of the House bill found the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) may need an increase of $100,000 per year to hire additional staff to help state agencies prepare their inventories and report on their progress in cutting regulations.
"Maybe it is going to take some extra time, and maybe it is going to cost us a little bit more money to staff up and do these things," Riedel said. "… Even if it does cost the state of Ohio some money to accomplish our goal, to me, it’s money well spent, and its a great investment in our state because in the end that will all get paid back tenfold. It’ll all come back in spades to the state."
During a series of recent hearings on both the House and the Senate bills, many organizations – including the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, Americans for Prosperity and Ohioans for Tax Reform – testified in favor of the proposal.
Kevin Boehner, director of Small Business and Workforce Policy for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, testified in favor of the bill before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee. However, he acknowledged the 30 percent reduction "is going to be difficult to accomplish."
Willoughby Fire Department Fire Marshal Michael Kocab asked committee members to exempt the Ohio Fire Code from the required reduction. In his testimony to the Senate committee, he said a reduction "puts Ohioans – and first-responders – at serious risk of injury, or even death."
A representative of the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel asked committee members to exempt the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and its regulations from the bill.
Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters Ohio, questioned the efficacy of eliminating regulations by volume.
"This is an arbitrary reduction that does not get at whether rules are accomplishing a useful purpose," Schiller said in his testimony. "Nor does the bill consider the interplay with federal statutes and rules."