Washington Research Council examines regulatory reform progress and possibilities

The Washington Research Council just released a new Special Report examining state progress on improving regulation. The report focuses on a series of performance audits conducted by the state auditor’s office (SAO) over the past few years. There’s room for improvement, as the SAO and WRC write. For example,

  • Since 2011, the state auditor’s office (SAO) has been looking at regulatory reform.
  • In 2015, it found that Washington does not take a strategic approach to multi-agency coordination.
  • In 2013, the SAO found that for 60 percent of all permits, agencies did not provide information on how long it would take to come to a decision.
  • Processing times were tracked by agencies for only 62 percent of business permits.
  • In 2012, the SAO found that although Washington has three central business websites, none of them provided complete regulatory information.

We also looked at regulation in our research report last fall and made regulatory reform one of our Employ priorities

Streamline the regulatory system to improve predictability and efficiency.

Our report pointed out the two elements of good regulation.

Addressing regulatory policy typically involves two dimensions: determining whether the regulations themselves are reasonable, and judging how efficiently they are administered. In terms of regulatory content, Washington regulations routinely exceed the minimums required by federal law…While regulations ultimately reflect Washingtonians’ policy preferences, they should be regularly reviewed to see if, for example, the benefits justify the added costs of compliance. 

The other regulatory dimension — administrative efficiency — is currently being addressed as part of Results Washington, an initiative proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee to improve organizational performance throughout state government.

The WRC report is a good reminder of the importance of maintaining a consistent focus and commitment to responsible, accountable regulation. As the Research Council concludes,

…by taking the SAO’s recommendations to heart, the state could create a win-win-win for agencies, businesses, and taxpayers. 

Also new on the WRC site: blog posts on improving education and strengthening the economy and on yesterday’s court decision upholding the SeaTac minimum wage ordinance at the airport.