Transparency key to successful regulation

Guest Editorial
Gov. Rick Snyder, taking the words of Abraham Lincoln to heart, has put in motion a collective of committees that supposedly would create legislation for the people, by the people. But which people?

The Office of Regulatory Reinvention, or ORR, was created in February by the governor. The purpose of the ORR, according to its website, is to “simplify Michigan’s regulatory environment by reducing obsolete, unnecessary and burdensome rules that are limiting economic growth.” The ORR has gone on to create Advisory Rules committees that will do the bulk of this assessment.

Each committee has 10-15 members, and anyone can become a member, one only has to submit a résumé to the ORR, and detail why he or she wants to work on a particular committee. Each committee gets 120 days to review all the rules and regulations relevant to that committee.

The concept of reviewing all 19,000 of Michigan’s business rules does sound like a worthy project. But the public needs to know if the committees present a conflict of interest for its members; private companies can’t create laws for the state.

That’s not to say the committees can act on their own; they can’t. But they can recommend changes in legislation to the governor, who does have the power to enact changes. The governor has shown a willingness to bend over backwards for private businesses in Michigan. For example, he eliminated the Michigan Business Tax in favor of a flat business tax, about $1.7 billion in tax breaks for businesses. Having private business leaders on a government committee seems like a conflict of interest.

That’s why there needs to be more transparency within the ORR. The public needs to know if the vice president of environmental management and resources at DTE Energy is on the Environmental Advisory Rules Committee (he is), so it can be aware of potential changes in environmental regulation that could have an affect on overall health.

The idea of getting the input of private businesses when considering reform makes sense on its face. Streamlining regulations so businesses aren’t as confused and don’t have to wander through as much red tape sounds like a recipe for bringing businesses and jobs back to the state of Michigan.

But there’s a reason private businesses don’t make laws. At the end of the day, the main interests of private businesses lie in profit, which often conflict with what’s best for the public. The reason we have regulations in place is to preserve the health and safety of the general public.

This is yet another example of the Snyder administration trading long-term viability for short-term benefits. What this state needs is long-term solutions to problems that are a decade in the making, not committees that have only 120 days to decide what regulation is and isn’t currently necessary.

With only 120 days to review all the regulations in a particular area, do the committees have time to study the potential economic and social long-term effects of their recommendations?

They don’t. And that’s why the public needs to keep an eye on them.

—The State News