Bureaucrats Are Not Running Amok

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In a couple of recent posts, much has been made of Governor-elect Youngkin’s comments about reviewing regulations. After thinking about this promise and remembering similar promises by former governors, I decided to undertake one of my favorite exercises: poking around in the Code of Virginia a little bit. I found two items directly relevant to this discussion: one I was vaguely aware of and one I was not aware of.

First, the one that I was unaware of. This promise of Youngkin is no big deal because he will merely be following the law. Sec. 2.2-4017 requires:

Each Governor shall mandate through executive order a procedure for periodic review during that Governor’s administration of regulations of agencies within the executive branch of state government. The procedure shall include (i) a review by the Attorney General to ensure statutory authority for regulations and (ii) a determination by the Governor whether the regulations are (a) necessary for the protection of public health, safety and welfare and (b) clearly written and easily understandable.

I was vaguely aware of the General Assembly having some power to review new regulations. Indeed Sec. 2.2-4014 authorizes a standing committee of either house of the General Assembly to file an objection to any regulation proposed in its field of jurisdiction. Furthermore, the statute goes on to establish a procedure whereby the General Assembly may suspend the effective date of a final regulation and, subsequently, nullify all or a portion of the regulation.All the criticism tends to overlook why there are regulations in the first place. Despite what some people may think, bureaucrats are not out there making regulations willy-nilly, mainly for the fun of it. For many good reasons, legislation is written in general terms, setting out the main policy objectives. The statutes direct the applicable agencies to develop regulations to implement the general policies set out in law.

So, if you think there are too many regulations, don’t blame the regulators; they are just doing what the law tells them to do. If you think some of the existing regulations are no longer needed or do not achieve what they were intended to do, don’t worry: the law requires the incoming governor to conduct a review of all regulations and identify those that are no longer needed. And, if you object to some proposed regulations, tell your legislator: the legislature has the ability to nullify proposed regulations.