Massachusetts Leading the Nation in Regulatory Reform

Spring 2013

In March 2012, Massachusetts launched a first-in-the-nation effort to systematically reform our public rule-making process and the way our state views government regulation and its impact on our economy.

This regulatory reform initiative features four parts aimed at: 1) reducing business impacts of new regulations; 2) reviewing and re-evaluating the continued need for existing regulations; 3) increasing awareness of state government regulators; and 4) creating and maintaining open lines of communication with the business community on the topic of regulation.

To reduce the impacts of new regulation on small businesses, all agencies proposing regulatory changes must now prepare and publicly release a small business impact statement that analyzes the potential effect the regulation would have on small businesses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Office of Economic Development has developed and implemented a uniform template for state agencies to report impacts in a consistent and comprehensive fashion, and provided a preferred methodology for agencies to measure the number of businesses which would be affected by the proposed regulation. The template considers such things as:

  • New reporting requirements;
  • Continuing education requirements;
  • New fees and taxes; and
  • Potential duplication with other government agencies, among others.
graphic showing Massachusetts regulation reform

These impact statements are now introduced during the public rule-making process, and the regulated community is now able to comment on the regulatory impact statement during public comment periods and hearings.

The second part of this reform initiative takes aim at reducing the regulatory impacts of existing regulations and seeks opportunities for streamlining, increasing transparency and improving government efficiencies. Governor Deval Patrick kicked off this effort with a directive to all state agencies in late 2011 to review their existing regulations, beginning with the oldest regulations first. Agencies were instructed to review each regulation and evaluate its impact on business and then justify whether or not it was still necessary. Since that time, 446 existing regulations were reviewed across nearly 60 agencies, resulting in 287 recommendations for regulatory rescissions or modifications. As a result, 75 regulations were identified for outright repeal and 212 will be improved, with 36 improvements intended to align Massachusetts with a national model or standard that is utilized by other states. In total, 64 percent of the regulations reviewed to date have resulted in a reform recommendation.

We are proud of the initial results of the regulatory review effort, and will continue to pursue an aggressive schedule of regulatory review with a goal of reviewing all state regulations across the Patrick Administration by the end of 2014. While engaging in continued reviews, agencies have simultaneously begun to advance regulatory amendments that are easing regulatory burdens on small businesses in the near term.

For example, the Division of Professional Licensure recently filed regulatory changes to clarify the application process for new salons and provide a means for transferring ownership of a salon without disrupting business, positively affecting the 9,000+ salons in business here today. Additionally, the Department of Revenue will streamline the process for combined filers to request a tax filing extension, saving time and money for nearly 71,000 Massachusetts business owners. Further, the Department of Transportation will streamline and standardize the permitting and fee structure for oversized loads traveling on state-owned roadways, providing for greater transparency and predictability from region to region.

The most significant set of regulatory reforms to date have come from the Department of Environmental Protection, an agency that completed a top-to-bottom review of its regulations to find smarter ways to protect the environment while reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens on businesses. The Department worked closely with businesses and environmental stakeholders to identify more than 20 reforms that will streamline environmental permitting, eliminate duplicative approvals, and encourage better environmental outcomes by reducing barriers to environmentally beneficial projects like renewable energy sources. These efforts will promote a more predictable and transparent development process to support new commercial and residential growth in our communities.

graphic of Massachusettes regulations

To improve awareness of the connection between regulations and prosperity of the state economy, the state’s third objective for regulatory reform involves training state regulators. To initiate this effort, Governor Patrick sent a video message to all state employees asking for their best ideas regarding regulatory reform and encouraging them to continue their pursuit of government innovation.

Lastly, the Administration, through its Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development, has appointed me to serve as the Regulatory Ombudsman for the state. In this role, I lead the overall regulatory reform effort happening inside state government and act as a liaison to the regulated community to ensure that businesses are engaged from outside of state government. I have convened a Business Advisory Group on Regulation made up of business leaders, chambers of commerce and trade associations to discuss regulatory issues of importance to their members, and to work together to advance targeted reforms of most significance to the broadest set of Massachusetts business. Additionally, I have been working with individuals, small businesses and organizations to collect reform ideas on an ongoing basis that our agencies will consider.

Governor Patrick recently said, “If compliance can be made easier and cheaper, we will make it easier and cheaper. If compliance is too cumbersome or costly, relative to the benefits, the proposed regulation will not take effect until we identify a less cumbersome path forward.” The Patrick-Murray Administration is steadfastly committed to executing a comprehensive regulatory reform agenda that includes collaboration and partnership with business and other impacted parties.

For more information (Click Regulatory Reform)