Sunset with periodic review of rules is working. Here’s how it can do even more.

In 2013, the General Assembly passed a powerful, empirically tested red-tape reduction measure: sunset provisions with periodic review. At the time, the total stock of state rules had been estimated at 22,500.

We’re now at the halfway mark of the process. Here are the numbers now according to an August 2017 update from the state Rules Review Commission:

  • 11,361 total rules reviewed so far
  • 7,015 rules to remain unchanged
  • 2,918 rules subject to the readoption process
  • 1,428 rules to be removed

So about one-eighth of state rules are being removed under the current process.

A common-sense way to strengthen periodic review

Here’s how a good process can be even better. Right now, rules under review fall in one of three categories:

  • “Unnecessary.” A rule the agency no longer finds necessary. It gets repealed.
  • “Necessary with substantive public interest.” A rule the agency considers necessary and has attracted public comment within the past two years. It must be readopted as if it is a new rule.
  • “Necessary without substantive public interest.” A rule the agency considers necessary and hasn’t attracted public comment. It is automatically re-upped.

Here is how those categories have sorted so far:

Section 3 of  House Bill 162 would get rid of the “necessary without substantive public interest” category (i.e., the biggest one, shown in blue in the pie chart). That change would subject all “necessary” state rules to periodic review. (The “unnecessary” ones would still sunset immediately.)

The end result would be more scrutiny of agency rules over time. That’s important because the bulk of economic literature demonstrates regulation’s harmful effects on the economy. Doing more to remove red tape and clear out overregulation would have greater beneficial effects for economic growth.

It’s a common-sense reform advocated by, among others, the head of the Rules Review Commission.

HB 162 already passed both chambers earlier this year, and the Senate has approved the conference report. The House could consider it in the upcoming extra session starting Friday.

Read my report for more details.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...