Regulatory Reform: A Useful Exercise

Attorney General Bob McDonnell has announced the formation of a Government and Regulatory Reform Task Force. The objective: to start a “serious, long-term effort” to reduce “unnecessary and obsolete regulations in Virginia, and to limit the regulatory burden on Virginia businesses and citizens.”

The Virginia Administrative Code may not be the Federal Register (thank you, lord) but it still runs 24,000 pages. But it’s big enough to undermine Virginia’s reputation as one of the most business-friendly states in the country. As a McDonnell press release stated:

Recent studies have indicated that Virginia’s regulatory ranking has slipped in recent years. Pacific Research Institute’s 2004 Economic Freedom Index report gave Virginia a regulatory ranking of 15th. Similarly, a 1999 study by Clemson University ranked Virginia 2nd in terms of economic freedom, but gave the Commonwealth a score of 18th on the regulatory component.

There will be three working groups: one for agriculture, one for small business and one for health care.

It sounds like a useful exercise. It’s entirely possible that nothing will come of it — another study collecting dust on the shelf. Remember the Wilder Commission report? On the other hand, I can’t see any harm coming from it.

Update: The task force invites the public to report egregious regulations or pass along other information/advice by e-mailing

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10 responses to “Regulatory Reform: A Useful Exercise”

  1. Soothsayer Avatar

    If real entrepreneurs are brought into the group, business owners at all stages–start-up, rapid growth, mature–then we might really see some useful recommendations. Too often, task forces are chosen for marquee name value, not in-the-trenches, real world knowledge.

    Should anyone know a business person with ideas and opinions, steer them toward the AG’s blog or other contact for the task force. This AG office appears extremely accessible and open.

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    I remember a Tax Reform group around 98 or so. The price of entrance was the size of political contributions.

    Hope Bob does it better.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    I suppose this is the first salvo of the 2009 gubernatorial campaign.

    Question: what responsibility does the AG have with regards to this arena? Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the effort, but I thought the AG essentially ran state’s largest law firm and didn’t run economic development activities other than reviewing performance agreements for GOF and TROF?

  4. NOVA Scout Avatar
    NOVA Scout

    Does the AG’s office have more lawyers than McGuire Woods, Hunton & Williams, Troutman Sanders or Williams Mullin? I don’t really know, but it would surprise me if that were the case.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    The AG’s Office has no responsibility or athority to pass on questions of obsolesence of regulations. That is the function of the executive and the legislative branch.

    This is just politics. We can espect more preening and posturing from him as the next election draws closer.

    And by the way, how can a member of the Supreme Court of Virginia pass any judgment on a state agency regulation when his wife has been a member of this commission? It’s a “puzzlement.”

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    The AG’s office has more than 200 lawyers. Used to be third or fourth in the state (based on lawyers in VA, not counting DeeCee.) Not sure of the total AG lawyer headcount once they do all the new hiring authorized in that fat budget based on all those tax hikes Bob attacked (ahem). He was there when the turkey was carved, lemme tell ya.

    The dirty little secret of “regulatory relief” is that most regs are either federally mandated or are requested by the regulated entities themselves — often to put the squeeze on competitors. Everybody realizes that is how professional licensing works (limit supply, raise the price of expertise) but regs often serve that same purpose. They are there because some constituency group wanted them.

    This is just brochure building, and the final report will kill some trees. Attend the meeting this week of the legislative regualtory oversight commission — that has some teeth.

  7. J. Tucker Martin Avatar
    J. Tucker Martin

    To try to address a few of the issues raised here.

    One, the Office of the Attorney General is uniquely situated to take on the task of reducing regulations in Virginia. This office serves as the Commonwealth’s law firm. Our office advises all state agencies on their regulations from the stage of creation to amendment and removal, and is involved in periodic review of regulations by the Commonwealth. This office therefore has an understanding of how to create regulations, but also, more importantly, how to go back through the system to remove regulations.

    For those who charge this is “brochure building,” I would respond by saying that the Attorney General has made it clear to the Task Force members and the AG Office staff that he expects real results from this group. Don’t take my word for it, all we are asking is that at least some judgement be reserved until the Task Force has had time to work. If a year from now nothing has been achieved, then anyone should feel free to note this. But at this point a group consisting of leaders from across the political, occupational, and interest group spectrum is now ready to get to work. As Jim Bacon noted, why not see what can be accomplished before writing an epitaph?

    Finally, public input is sought for this effort. That is why the email address for comment has been created. Also, there will be public comment periods at each of the Task Force’s meetings, and I hope that those raising these concerns will find the time to make it to at least one meeting to have a say in the work this group is doing.

    In closing, and I apologize for the lengthy post, the Attorney General is absolutely committed to reducing unnecessary and burdensome regulation in Virginia. He has assembled a very talented and experienced group to work on this. And this office is in the best position possible to take on such a task.

    J. Tucker Martin
    Director of Communications
    Attorney General Bob McDonnell

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Isn’t this a bit, ahem, “activist” for a conservative AG? Mr. Martin is correct that it is the job of the AG to “advise” clients (e.g., state agencies and the Governor) on laws passed by the legislative branch, signed by the Governor, and executed by the executive branch agencies.

    Further, in that the AG often opines (like a judge) on questions posed to him regarding statutes, might this exercise create a conflict? What if, for example, he is asked to opine on a statute or regulation that is currently being batted around by his task force — or, worse, that his task force has already taken a position on? While the AG’s opinions do not carry the weight of law, they are taken into consideration at times by judges when cases are before them.

    Overall, this seems beyond the historical scope of the Office of the Attorney General.

    Even if the AG gets legislators to carry legislation based on his task force’s findings, it’s still the GA and Governor who have the last word.

    Frankly, while the effort is noteworthy, it seems to me that the AG should stick to his historic role. It’s ironic that this conservative AG would be “activist” in this way.

  9. NOVA Scout Avatar
    NOVA Scout

    Tucker Martin convinces me that this has little to do with the AG’s office and threatens to distract the AG and some of his colleagues from his limited, but important, statutory duties. He may want to punt this one over to the Governor.

  10. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    After Tim Kaine’s big sell-out on the issue that put him in office — delaying building when the roads are inadequate and his aggressive support of the extension of Metrorail, which would benefit his six-digit campaign contributors, but not fix traffic, why would anyone trust him? Kaine did not even put up a fight for his land use/transportation issue, but immediately ran to the other side and has been fighting ever since to pave our way out of this mess. Also take a look at the amounts given to his campaign by West Group executives and other Tysons Corner landowners. The Governor does not have clean hands.

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