As of Friday, October 14, 2016
Believe it or not, it’s actually a federal crime to sell “chicken noodle soup” if the soup contains less than 2 percent chicken. It’s also a federal crime to sell marbles for children without an explicit written warning saying “this toy is a marble.” It’s a federal crime to play sports on certain government property if the grounds are wet, even with a permit.
This is but a sampling of the thousands of silly government regulations tracked dutifully by the “A Crime a Day,” Twitter account. But even this cataloging of absurdity doesn’t fully reveal the scope of the outrageous, damaging regulations passed by unaccountable bureaucrats at government agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA, for example, has approved regulations governing every aspect of air and water, to the torment of all of us who depend on breathing and drinking to live. EPA’s Clean Power Plan is the latest in unaccountable regulations that threaten American prosperity, and there’s very little anyone can do about it. Even your members of Congress are powerless to stop the regulatory state.
But what if those federal regulations could be reviewed and even rejected? What if federal government regulations were subjected to scrutiny, debate and an up-or-down vote by our elected representatives? While this review of government regulations doesn’t occur in Washington, D.C., or most anywhere else in government, the review of government agency regulations takes place each and every year at the Idaho Legislature.
Idaho lawmakers start each session with a full review of the regulations agencies plan to impose on Idahoans. Some are just as goofy as the federal regulations. A proposal this past legislative session would require bars to sell a minimum number of drinks per week. A regulation two years ago required auto dealerships to stay open during hours determined by the Idaho Transportation Board. A recent proposal sought to bend Idaho’s public records law to the breaking point, exempting critical records from public disclosure. Our state Legislature plays a unique role in stopping bad regulations from taking effect.
It might surprise you to learn the ability of the Legislature to review regulations and scuttle bad ones exists nowhere in the state Constitution. This important work was validated in a divided state Supreme Court ruling in 1990, meaning this review process hangs by a thread. It would take just one court ruling to end the Legislature’s annual review agency regulations. Fortunately, in November, Idaho voters will have a chance to cement the Legislature’s regulatory review as part of the state constitution. And voters should, without hesitation. House Joint Resolution 5 (HJR 5) simply says the Legislature may approve or reject regulations, making sure those regulations are consistent with state statute.
Other states envy Idaho’s unique regulatory review process. Idaho’s regulatory review process has spared businesses unnecessary expense and requirements. It has stopped agencies from creating new hassles and hardships for taxpayers. It will continue to do so if HJR 5 wins approval of voters Nov. 8.