Governor’s Regulatory Reform Will Create a Strong Economic Future

Appropriate, and carefully drafted government regulations create necessary parameters in all facets of our complex society.  Unfortunately, in many instances, regulations which are archaic, or not well-grounded, stunt economic development opportunities, resulting in job loss, and thwart new growth potential for our communities.  Fortunately though, business owners voice their specific concerns about onerous regulations, and our elected officials constructively respond, but, as we know, regulatory change comes very slowly, if at all.  However, something very positive is happening in Massachusetts. Our government is taking action to cut bureaucratic red tape and our business community is working enthusiastically to assist in the effort to make Massachusetts more business friendly.

Last spring, pursuant to a legislative mandate, Governor Patrick appointed The Governor’s Economic Development Planning Council to help chart the course for economic growth in the Commonwealth for the first part of the 21st century.  In November of 2011, after considerable work, the Council, chaired by Greg Bialecki, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, issued a report calling for a variety of initiatives to be taken to improve the economic posture of the state.  Among those initiatives were specific regulatory reforms aiming to increase the ease of doing business in Massachusetts.  Governor Patrick, in the spirit of the Council’s recommendations, recently announced that he has directed all agencies of his Administration to conduct a wide-ranging review of existing state regulations, looking for opportunities to reduce cost and administrative burdens on small businesses, maximize operational efficiencies of government agencies, and improve transparency and predictability of process.  In fact, the Administration plans to review 1,000 regulations before the end of 2012, and has already committed to 150 changes during this review.  These reforms aim to reduce duplicative permitting and reporting requirements, allow for better use of modern technology, simplify licensing and business operations, or better coordinate state agencies and local government where responsibilities seem to overlap.  In sum, these actions will make the state’s regulatory system more efficient and reflect an every day common sense approach to strengthening and moving our economy forward.

Further, thanks to legislative actions in 2010 supported by all of the New Bedford Delegation, a new set of protocols for how state agencies consider the business impacts of new regulations, are also now in place. This assessment of business impacts will be considered during the public hearing and comment process on all new regulations, demonstrating greater opportunity for businesses to share their viewpoints during the initial rule-making process.

Particularly relevant to the economy of the City of New Bedford are the Governor’s recommendations which support our commercial fisheries and seafood processing facilities. The Division of Marine Fisheries expects to eliminate annual reporting of sea bass catch, fishery closures for horseshoe crab quota monitoring, and state minimum size requirements for surf clams. The Department of Public Health expects to eliminate 10 separate rules that apply to food processing facilities and replace them with a single, modern set of requirements that will incorporate the National Shellfish Sanitation Program, which is widely accepted by other states.

For business owners throughout the region and across Massachusetts, this message is very good news. Our policy makers are making changes and reforming government in ways that will have positive impacts on our state’s economic climate for many years to come.  Here in Massachusetts we are demonstrating how to address problems and produce balanced solutions, without abandoning important core principals, like safeguarding our natural resources, public health and protecting consumers.

The Patrick Administration has done an excellent job of initiating this process by opening doors and minds to smarter, innovative solutions. But like every innovative policy, there needs to be a continuing partnership where both sides – government and business – accept responsibility for their respective roles, and fashion real solutions to improve our regulatory system.  It is incumbent upon our businesses to engage in this transparent process, which includes lending support for good ideas and presenting alternative solutions to persistent and difficult economic issues. Regulators need insight from businesses and practitioners who comply with regulations on a daily basis and who bring an alternate perspective to the discussion.  I encourage all of our region’s businesses small, as well as our largest corporations, to seize this opportunity to help ensure a bright economic future for the residents of our state.

Scott W. Lang is the former Mayor of the City of New Bedford and serves on The Governor’s Economic Development Planning Council.

This Opinion Editorial first appeared in the Standard Times at: