Baltimore Sun

Panel to assess Md. business regulation­s

Hogan directs 10-member committee to target the state’s ‘nonsensica­l’ rules

- By Michael Dresser

Vowing to free Maryland businesses from what he called “nonsensica­l, out-ofcontrol” regulation­s, Gov. Larry Hogan launched a commission Thursday charged with reviewing every rule on the state’s books with an eye to streamlini­ng or eliminatin­g them.

The Republican governor, following up on campaign promises, told reporters that his new Regulatory Reform Commission will make recommenda­tions to eliminate regulation­s that discourage businesses from coming to or staying in Maryland.

“We promise a top-tobottom review of all regulation­s and policies to make sure that Maryland can once again operate under a fair, accountabl­e and balanced regulatory climate,” Hogan said. He said the panel will target rules that are outdated, failed to meet their goals, or are poorly drafted or implemente­d.

Critics objected to the compositio­n of the 10-member panel, which is made up almost entirely of business interests. Six of the members, including co-chair James A. Soltesz, were identified as chief executive officers of companies and a seventh as president. The other co-chair is Baltimore securities lawyer Abba David Poliakoff of the firm Gordon Feinblatt.

The other members include a representa­tive of the agricultur­al community and

Hogan transition chief James T. Brady, a former secretary of business and economic developmen­t.

The group included no representa­tives of labor, environmen­tal organizati­ons or nonprofits — groups that typically seek a role in how regulation­s are written and enforced. Aides to the governor said more people might be added.

Hogan said the commission would scrutinize a wide swath of rules — dealing with such areas as the environmen­t, transporta­tion, health, labor standards, occupation­al licensing, banking and finance, land use and insurance. He identified excessive regulation as one of the three “deadly self-inflicted wounds” holding back business in Maryland. (The others, he said, are high taxes and an anti-business attitude.)

Henry Bogdan, public policy director for Maryland Nonprofits, said he was concerned by what he considers a lack of diversity on the panel.

“Someone should be at the table to speak for the reasons those regulation­s were put there in the first place,” he said.

Karla Raettig, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservati­on Voters, expressed similar concerns. She said the environmen­tal community wants Maryland to increase jobs but believes a well-protected natural environmen­t helps attract businesses.

“One of the things they need to be examining when they look at these regulation­s are the benefits they bring,” she said.

Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said the governor wants a panel that reflects the business interests.

“It represents the governor’s point of view,” he said.

Brian Poffenberg­er, president of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the commission. Of the three problems Hogan identified, he said, heavyhande­d regulation is the greatest threat.

“It is the one that will shatter a business plan most severely because business are based on predictabi­lity,” he said.

Poffenberg­er said the membership of the panel was appropriat­e.

“You want people with a deep business background,” he said.

Hogan told reporters that the commission would continue through the next three years of his administra­tion and make recommenda­tions each December. The governor said some of the panel’s recommenda­tions might require legislatio­n, while others could be adopted administra­tively.

He said the panel will report to Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who will serve as honorary chairman.

It was unclear how the group would interact with a similar commission created in a bill passed by the General Assembly, and signed by Hogan this year.

That panel, charged with investigat­ing the impact of regulation­s on small business, will include lawmakers and business owners appointed by legislativ­e leaders, in addition to Hogan Cabinet secretarie­s.

“I don’t know the difference between what the governor’s doing and what he signed into law,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat who said he received no advance notice of Hogan’s plans. An official in Democratic Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller’s office said he was not informed either.

Mayer said the governor’s commission would be reviewing all regulation­s in Maryland, not just those affecting small business.

It is not unpreceden­ted for Maryland governors to appoint panels to review regulation­s and try to streamline government in the state. Gov. Martin O’Malley undertook a review that led to the eliminatio­n or revision of more than 130 regulation­s in 2012. And Busch recalled a similar initiative under Gov. William Donald Schaefer in the early 1990s.

Busch said Hogan was acting within his authority.

“He’s the governor,” the speaker said. “He has the right to review every regulation.”

But Busch said any legislativ­e proposals developed by the panel would be “highly scrutinize­d” by the General Assembly.

 ??  ?? Larry Hogan
Larry Hogan
 ?? BARBARA HADDOCK TAYLOR/BALTIMORE SUN ?? Gov. Larry Hogan announces the formation of his Regulatory Reform Commission during a news conference.
BARBARA HADDOCK TAYLOR/BALTIMORE SUN Gov. Larry Hogan announces the formation of his Regulatory Reform Commission during a news conference.

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