Sununu vows to cut 1,600 regulations deemed ‘obsolete’

  • Gov. Chris Sununu signs an executive order at Cuts on Main in Winchester on Thursday. Michael Moore / Keene Sentinel

Monitor staff
Thursday, July 20, 2017

In one of his first actions as governor, Chris Sununu ordered state agencies to review their rules to weed out those that either weren’t “essential to the public health, safety or welfare” or required by law. Rules that didn’t pass the test should be struck, he said.

On Thursday, Sununu reported back on the effort, announcing at a hair salon in Winchester he would cut 1,600 regulations deemed “obsolete” and establish a steering committee to oversee further regulatory review.

“Today’s actions are part of my ongoing ‘Cutting Regs and Red Tape’ agenda,” Sununu said in a statement. “This is about moving to a culture where our employees, and boards and commissions, feel empowered to have a mindset of ‘yes first.’ When it comes to working with state government, far too many small-business owners have to fight to get to ‘yes,’ and that’s not right.”

Most of the rules the governor has said should be repealed or allowed to expire are quite literally obsolete – they’re duplicates of other rules, attached to laws that have been repealed, or govern the administration of federal or state grants that no longer exist.

Nearly 500, for example, pertain to duplicate rules regarding the licensing and oversight of electricians. Another 180 are tied to a coastal grant program that is no longer funded. A little over 300 banking rules refer to repealed laws.

State Sen. Dan Feltes, a Concord Democrat, accused the governor of grandstanding on what amounted to housekeeping measures.

“In my view this is more a political stunt than a substantive executive order,” said Feltes, who sits on the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules. “When the governor says ‘allow these rules to expire’ – these rules would have been allowed to expire anyways.”

JLCAR, a committee of lawmakers, approves all administrative rules that agencies put forward. Rules fill in the blanks after legislation gets passed, and have the force of law. They’re good for 10 years.

In an executive order Thursday, Sununu established a steering committee to look at regulations on an agency-by-agency basis and recommend changes “to reduce the regulatory burden imposed on citizens and businesses and to maintain or enhance the public health, safety, or welfare.”

Feltes said Sununu is overstepping by creating the committee.

“Many of the functions of JLCAR already cover this. And so if Governor Sununu would like to modify the functions of JLCAR in some way, he would need to do this through legislation,” he said.

But state Rep. Carol McGuire, JLCAR’s vice-chairwoman, said she thinks Sununu’s efforts were useful, even if many of the rules identified by Sununu’s review were technically unenforceable.

“If they’re still on the books, not everybody knows that they’re unenforceable,” the Epsom Republican said. “I think one of the things this will do is get things repealed a little more quickly, which is always good.”

She said she hadn’t looked at the details of the steering committee so she couldn’t comment in full. But the committee would have the opportunity to be proactive, something JLCAR couldn’t do, she said.

“JLCAR only deals with things that are brought to them,” she said.

The steering committee will be made up of two state representatives, one state senator, the commissioner of administrative services, and three members appointed by the governor.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)