Regulations are the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of state government.
On one hand, they serve to protect the health of residents and the environment. On the other, they can complicate and interfere with those very things — and can be very unfriendly to business and industry.
Gov. Nikki Haley has ordered state agencies to review their procedures and regulations to determine if their costs in time and money outweigh their benefits.
That information will be evaluated by a panel appointed by Mrs. Haley and members of the Legislature.
It is not surprising to see that politicians and the pro-business members predominate on the panel. Indeed, as the only one of 11 members who is a conservationist by profession, Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, will have to be especially vigilant.
Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell began pushing for regulatory reform while he was still in the Senate.
In a recent column on our Commentary page, he described examples of stifling rules. For example, an adult day care facility was not allowed to extend its work week by a day without a tedious, time-consuming and costly process. The company decided the effort wasn’t worth it.
Clearly that is a blow to residents who need adult day care for their family members. It is also a blow to the business owner, and it saps any hope for new jobs at the facility.
And seemingly, the additional hoops to jump through are excessive.
But some regulations that are annoying and time-consuming to businesses are important for the residents of South Carolina.
Plenty of developers would love to build their subdivisions without worrying about wetlands, for example. But it would be tragic to allow construction that would spoil essential natural habitat and reduce flood control.
Mr. Beach told reporter Stephen Largen that the problem could be in the implementation of a regulation rather than the regulation itself. The pettifogging bureaucrat is ever a force in government.
But the lieutenant governor is more skeptical. He wants to require all regulations to be reviewed after a period of time to assess their value. The General Assembly should have to vote to continue the regulation or kill it.
Mr. McConnell’s reasoning is that government agencies are expanding their authority without adequate oversight.
Meanwhile, they are financing their operations with onerous fees. “Regulations are the vehicle for the invisible growth of government,” he wrote.
Ann Timberlake, executive director of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, said the state’s Republican leadership, particularly in the Senate, has shown that it can balance environmental and business concerns.
That is a good goal for the governor’s panel: Reduce red tape where it does more harm than good, but leave in place regulations that help keep South Carolina safe for wildlife and attractive to outdoorsmen as well as to businesses.