Red Tape Review Finds Plenty to Snip and Unsnarl

Governor's bipartisan committee recommends streamlining rule-making process and giving local governments greater authority over unfunded mandates

If the Christie administration has its way, New Jersey residents will no longer have to fear the long arm of the bison police.

Citing a regulation that requires farmers raising more than 10 bison to pay an annual “exotic species” fee, the Governor’s Red Tape Review Group today issued a report that strongly recommends scaling back the state’s burdensome rules and regulations.

Such rules “make it nearly impossible for businesses to have an opportunity to open doors in New Jersey and operate economically,’’ said Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, the chairwoman of the group at a press conference in the Governor’s outer office (read the press release).

The report recommends streamlining the rulemaking process and giving local governments more authority to combat unfunded mandates, but stops short of making even more radical changes in the state’s regulatory process, though Guadagno vowed to press forward with eliminating red tape in succeeding months.

“There’s only so much work you can do in 90 days,’’ she said. “This isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon.’’

Credit: Governor Photos/Tim Larsen
Seeing Red: Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and the Red Tape Review.

“This is a blueprint. It’s a road map, a beginning of what is going to take a long time,’’ agreed Assemblyman John Burzichelli, a Democrat who joined the Republican administration in unveiling the report. “This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue. This is a New Jersey issue.”

Longtime Trenton observers say there is likely to be bipartisan backing to roll back some rules. “In my few years in Trenton, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Hal Bozarth, a lobbyist for the Chemistry Council of New Jersey for more than two decades.

But Jeff Tittel, a lobbyist for the New Jersey Sierra Club chapter, said the administration seems to be moving to excluding the public in having a say in how laws are implemented.

“The net impact is the New Jersey Business and Industry Association and the New Jersey Builders Association are going to be writing the rules for the next four years,’’ he said.

Guadagno vowed to change the culture of Trenton by making the state bureaucracy more customer-friendly to the people who have to deal with it. While not a recommendation of the report, she also promised to establish a one-stop shopping place for businesses seeking multiple permits to invest in the state.

The report also echoes the Governor’s Executive Order 2, which established common sense principles state agencies should following in adopting new rules. Some of those already are moving through the state Legislature, such as a bill that would make it more difficult for state agencies to adopt tougher standards than the federal government, a proposal that has been bitterly opposed by environmental groups.

The report also considered but stopped short of giving final decision in administrative law court cases to the presiding judge, instead of allowing the state agency head to make the final call on a case. The report, however, did recommend allowing administrative law court judges to issue oral opinions instead of written opinions, a proposal it argued would streamline the process.

Christie vowed to push forward with regulatory reform, saying it is an issue backed by both parties, calling the report’s recommendations bipartisan and reflecting common sense.

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