Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Gov. Strickland's Regulatory Reform Effort.

This showed up on the Governor's website last night:

    Governor Ted Strickland today established Advantage Ohio, a regulatory reform initiative that will work on easing the unnecessary burdens of regulations that prohibit and constrain business and development in Ohio.

    Advantage Ohio, a component of Strickland’s Turnaround Ohio Plan, calls for a focused review of current regulations, eliminating those that are unnecessary, redundant and contradictory while ensuring quality of life and health protections for Ohioans.

For those of you fearing "another layer of bureaucracy," it looks like Strickland is trying to sunset the initiative and limit it's drain on resources:
    Advantage Ohio will continue through the first year of the Strickland administration and rely upon existing state resources for implementation. The plan calls for a review of selected regulations and practices in executive branch agencies that have significant links with the business community.

And the Governor has his guy picked out:
    Strickland designated Columbus lawyer Scott North as the Governor’s Special Representative on Regulatory Reform to direct the Advantage Ohio initiative. He will begin work effective immediately.

    North will lead working groups consisting of representatives from business, government and the general public that will make recommendations to reduce unnecessary regulatory impediments to economic growth, while continuing to protect the interests of consumers and the health and safety of Ohio’s citizens.

The announcement got almost no coverage in the media. I couldn't find anything in the Dispatch. AP is good for a few grafs of stenography. The one exception is Copley which published a well-reported story. It includes reaction from Ohio Citizen Action (skeptical), Ohio Chamber of Commerce (hopeful) and Buckeye Institute (snotty.)

(We also learn from Buckeye that newly hired policy analyst J.Ken Blackwell "is following a self-imposed, 100-day, no-comment period about Strickland's policies.")

Scott North, according to Google search, is an Employee Benefits attorney at Porter, Wright, one of the big Ohio firms. He's not a career lobbyist for industry. Employee benefits practice is all about complying with complicated laws and regulations, most of which are Federal. All of that is to say, Mr. North is likely to be sensitive to the difficulties facing businesses trying to follow the rules, but isn't necessarily rabidly anti-regulation.

I'm still figuring out what to make of this. I'm all for improving efficiency. It does no one any good to have regulations that make life difficult and fail to accomplish anything. On the other hand, I beleive in regulations that do in fact protect health and safety. When Bush undertook regulatory "reform," his entire project was an effort to rewrite the regulatory regime so that all decisions favor business. That's what I feared a Blackwell reform would look like. The Progressive community needs to keep an eye on this to make sure it doesn't turn into something similar.

I also happen to agree with the Alan Wolfe thesis that anti-government Republicans don't do government well. Democrats who want regulations to work are better at fixing them so they do work than are conservatives who think the whole enterprise is worthless. So it may be that Governor Strickland can make Ohio a more business-friendly state without making it unfriendly to consumers. Wait and see.