With the governor now joining us in the fight for regulatory reform by appointing a task force to review current regulations, the need for essential systemic reform remains. Some who are being asked to do the review are the same ones who have drafted some of the regulations to be reviewed.
In a nutshell, requiring all regulations to sunset over a period of time, and secondly, requiring the General Assembly to vote them up or down, is the sure way to stop government agencies from growing themselves through regulations and financing themselves with fees.
Regulations are the vehicle for the invisible growth of government. Let me give you some examples. In Washington, D. C., pages of regulations, pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, will go into effect without a vote of Congress.
Likewise, when the new session of the General Assembly started, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control filed regulations for home caregivers. A statute was passed to require background checks of home care providers and to require Workers’ Compensation Insurance coverage in the event of an injury. These are people who provide basic services to people with disabilities or challenges such as assistance in dressing, going to the bathroom, cleaning the house, or being mobile in their own house. The statute authorized DHEC to promulgate regulations to implement these requirements of the legislation. Instead, DHEC regulators proposed regulations that went far beyond that. These regulations involved such things as requiring the workers to record how much bathroom assistance they give a client as well as record other data identified in the regulation as “allergies, pets, etc.”
“Etc.” is everything within the limits of regulators’ minds. Additionally, the regulations required that these records be kept for six years. Also, the type of assistance to be provided clients would have been designed more by the bureaucrats at DHEC rather than the clients’ wishes. The regulations also gave DHEC inspectors access to people’s homes to verify compliance.
All of this would take effect with the full force of law and would include an initial $1,000 license fee the first year plus an $800 renewal fee each year, plus fines if you do not comply with the regulations as determined by DHEC.
This is not only taxation without representation but government without representation. Fortunately, having Catherine Templeton at the helm of DHEC resulted in these regulations being withdrawn, when I brought them to her attention.
In 1773, the Boston Tea Party put into perspective a principle that would later be reflected in our Constitution — no taxation without representation. When the U. S. Constitution was adopted, it left the power to make laws solely in the legislative branch and kept that power distant from the executive branch. In that way, no tax or law would be imposed upon the public except through their elected representatives. The same principle is reflected in South Carolina’s Constitution.
As the legislative process evolved over time, laws were passed to authorize state and federal agencies to promulgate regulations to implement the mandates of certain other laws. In South Carolina, these regulations go into effect after 120 days; in the federal system, they generally go into effect 60 days after submission to Congress. In both cases, all regulations can go into effect automatically, without the affirmative vote of your elected representatives. These regulations promulgated by unelected regulators have the full force and effect of law and can also impose fees, a modern term for tax, on the public.
Regulations impact many elements of people’s private lives or businesses. Those who oppose regulations have little chance through the legislative process of getting them disapproved because they go into effect before time can be found to vote on them.
Over the decades, we have heard the call for limited government. But little is said or done about the broad grants of regulatory power given the agencies of the executive branch at the state and federal levels.
Shortly before I became lieutenant governor, as a senator, I supported a bill that would have required an affirmative vote by the General Assembly. Sadly, this bill was not taken up in the last session. I have since had an opportunity to see firsthand just how broken the regulatory system is.
Common sense is lacking. I have encountered a residential assisted living facility cited for regulatory violation because a lady had a can of hairspray in a private apartment. In another facility for adult day care, the facility could not extend the same service with the same personnel an additional day a week without going through a series of bureaucratic hoops.
If you want to make a sizeable dent in runaway government, request that your federal and state representatives insist that any regulations not take effect unless the elected representatives of the people vote on them and that regulations sunset every few years.
It is incompatible to representative government for agencies without a vote to impose their will, increase their budgets, and levy fees on the public by the promulgation of regulations. Until this systemic change is made, we will have a constant march toward ever more bureaucratic government in South Carolina and the United States. Just look at the past.
Glenn McConnell, a Charleston Republican, is lieutenant governor of South Carolina.
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