COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley directed her Cabinet agencies Tuesday to review their regulations, saying South Carolina needs to get rid of government rules that hamper businesses.
Haley signed an executive order that creates an 11-member task force to review regulations and make recommendations on which ones to throw out or alter. It also requires her 16 Cabinet agencies to report their suggestions to the task force by mid-May.
The Republican governor can’t mandate other state agencies do the same, but she’s encouraging them to.
“We are continuing to make sure every agency in South Carolina is customer-service friendly,” she said after her Cabinet meeting. “These agencies work for the taxpayer, for the businesses.
“If they’re costing them time, they’re costing them money.”
The task force has until mid-November to issue its report to the Legislature. The idea is that regulation changes will be introduced for the 2014 legislative session. Haley told her Cabinet directors to make whatever changes they could on their own.
The director of the state Chamber of Commerce said the initiative sounds like a good idea.
Otis Rawl said environmental permits give his members the most concern, because the process can drag on indefinitely.
Business owners want a timely decision, so they can decide whether to end a project or take it elsewhere if necessary, he said.
“We’ve got to fix the system where permits can get through the process without delays,” Rawl said.
Though the Department of Health and Environment Control is not a Cabinet agency, Haley appointed all of its board members, and she plans to discuss the directive with DHEC officials.
But Haley said she doesn’t want agencies to compromise safety: “Our goal is always safety.”
The founder of the Coastal Conservation League called her choice of words peculiar.
“DHEC’s goal is not safety per se but to ensure our environment’s not compromised, from human health to maintaining healthy wildlife populations,” said Dana Beach, adding he’s withholding judgment until he sees the list of appointees.
Beach, who hopes to be put on the panel, said he agrees the regulatory process could be more efficient.
Haley announced her plans to create a regulatory review task force in her State of the State address last month.
The panel is to be made up of members appointed by Republican and Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate, and business leaders. Haley will name who will head it.
She also wants to change how regulations take effect.
Currently, agencies must submit proposed regulations to legislators for review – a step that follows the public hearing process. If the Legislature takes no action within 120 days – not the 180 days Haley referenced – the regulation takes effect automatically. Legislators could otherwise vote to kill the regulation or send it back to the agency for tweaking.
Haley contends too many regulations slip through without a thorough review by legislators.
“That’s a scary thing for government,” Haley said. “Regulations can be the most costly thing to a business. Regulations are just as important as bills.”
The director of the Department of Social Services said she goes through the regulatory process only when the federal government requires it. That final step of legislative review is unlike other states, where regulations are an administrative function, said Lillian Koller, who came to South Carolina from Hawaii.
“I avoid it like the plague. … That slows things down,” she said, adding she instead makes policies and procedures to cover how things operate within the agency.
Rawl also suggested that business licenses be centralized through the Department of Revenue, giving business owners one place to pay licensing fees, rather than needing separate permits from each county and municipality in which they do business.