Governor responds to Representative’s request to temporarily suspend state agencies’ rulemaking activities

 

In August, Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, sent a letter to Governor Chris Gregoire requesting a temporary moratorium on all non-essential rulemaking activities by state agencies. Orcutt believes doing so will “save the state millions of dollars, allow employers some regulatory certainty, and show our citizens that their leaders are genuinely concerned about their personal and financial dilemmas.”

Orcutt's idea had been gaining steam behind closed doors, and now, is being formally embraced by the governor as she released executive order 10-06 today, which effectively eliminates all non-essential rulemaking by state agencies until the end of 2011.

“I'm extremely pleased the governor has responded to my request,” said Orcutt, who serves as a member of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council and is the ranking Republican on the House Finance Committee.

“This is good for our state budget situation and good for our economy,” Orcutt continued. “It will give our employers some certainty and help them focus on expanding the economy and leading us out of the current recession.”

Orcutt's letter to the governor included preliminary research showing that the Department of Ecology alone has over 43 FTEs working on 26 rules.

“As families and employers have had to streamline their budgets and services, so should state government. These FTEs that are currently working on rules should be let go for the duration of the moratorium. In a few cases, some of these employees could be reassigned to frontline agency work,” Orcutt states in his letter.

Orcutt said he is working on obtaining more detailed information from other state agencies, but believes the final outcome could save the state millions of dollars.

“When we're looking at a budget shortfall of around $4.5 billion, some may scoff at saving a few million dollars here or there,” Orcutt said. “But we absolutely have to abandon that type of thinking. Every dollar saved matters. We're going to have to get creative with our budget solutions. We're going to have to look at suspending activities, eliminating programs, and changing the way state government delivers services. We need to continue to make changes that save the state money and spur local businesses to expand and create jobs.”

While Orcutt is concerned that the governor's executive order is too broad and provides too much leeway for state agencies to argue that their rulemaking activities are “essential,” he believes it is a step in the right direction.

“It's not one-hundred percent what I envisioned, but it's a start” Orcutt said. “It gets the ball rolling in the right direction and continues the discussion over what is and what is not an essential function of state government.”

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For more information, contact Brendon Wold, Senior Information Officer: (253) 973-0505.

Editor's Note: Following is text of the letter Rep. Orcutt sent to Gov. Gregoire in August.

 

The Honorable Christine Gregoire, Governor

PO Box 40002

Olympia, WA 98504

 

Dear Governor Gregoire,

As you well know, Washington families, workers and employers continue to struggle to make ends meet. Past decisions made by our state's budget leaders have combined with the national and international recession to create a “perfect economic storm” that is quickly crushing the hopes and dreams of everyday citizens across Washington state.

The time to act is now. Our families and employers need bold and immediate action. While I applaud your recent decision to seek budgetary input from citizens and businesses around the state, it is a futile effort if we fail to actually implement the ideas presented.

I would like to propose one solution that will save the state millions, allow our employers some regulatory certainty, and show our citizens that their leaders are genuinely concerned about their personal and financial dilemmas.

I am formally requesting an immediate moratorium on all rulemaking by state agencies, with the exception of rules relating to public health emergencies by the Department of Health, and rules governing the state's hunting/fishing seasons by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Preliminary research shows the Department of Ecology alone has over 43 FTEs working on 26 rules. Staff time dedicated to rulemaking includes, but is not limited to:

· Draft the rule;

· Prepare economic analyses;

· Attend/facilitate workshops/public meetings;

· Work on supporting documentation;

· Facilitate, manage, and coordinate the rulemaking process both for individual rulemakings and at an agency level;

· Provide technical expertise;

· Provide outreach support; and

· Offer feedback on the rulemaking documents.

As families and employers have had to streamline their budgets and services, so should state government. These FTEs that are currently working on rules should be let go for the duration of the moratorium. In a few cases, some of these employees could be reassigned to frontline agency work.

This example is from one state agency. The total savings to taxpayers could surprise us all and would send a message to the public, the media and the rest of the executive branch that we are serious about implementing outside-the-box ideas to reduce the size and scope of government.

An immediate moratorium on all rulemaking would also send a message to our employers – especially our small businesses – that we really do want them here.

Again, preliminary research shows the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) has grown by 2,900 pages in the last eight years (15,016 pages in 2001 to 17,916 pages in 2009)!

I've spoken with many small employers in my district who say that the uncertainty brought on by the continued and excessive expansion of rules proves to be a major obstacle for them. This uncertainty leads to a hesitancy to expand operations, hire new workers or invest new capital. Imagine the positive jolt to employers a temporary halt to new rules would create.

Governor, you yourself recently stepped into the rulemaking arena when the state building code council was on the verge of implementing unnecessary and drastically expensive new rules that would have increased the cost of homeownership and further hampered our state's construction and housing recovery. You sided with Republican legislators and the general public in delaying these costly rules. I supported your actions then, and would like to encourage you to take the same action on a broader scale now.

Everyday operations at every level of government are supposed to provide a system of rules that creates a framework which allows individuals to prosper, communities to thrive and families to safely pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, that has not been the case with agency rulemaking in our state.

I make this request to immediately suspend rulemaking efforts by state agencies (with the noted exceptions) in the sincere hope that we can work together to implement effective, common sense solutions to our state's problems. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have and look forward to quick implementation of this cost-saving, economy-improving idea.

Respectfully,

 

Rep. Ed Orcutt

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov