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Gov. McDonnell working to cut regulation backlog

Sunday - 9/30/2012, 4:19pm  ET

RICHMOND, Va. - Gov. Bob McDonnell's office is working to reduce a backlog of regulations awaiting action by the governor, including some that have languished in the review process for more than two years.

The regulations affect a variety of professions, industries and people, including funeral homes, contractors, children facing possible removal from their homes to foster homes, and the oil and natural gas industry.

There is no deadline in the review process for the governor to act. More than two dozen regulations were pending for 600 to 800 days in the governor's policy office at the end of August.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch says the governor's policy office began acting on pending regulations after Labor Day. Reviews of about 55 regulations were completed by last week, including some that had been pending for more than two years.

McDonnell's office also has called on state agencies to identify regulations that are no longer necessary or "overly burdensome" so they can be improved or repealed. The agencies have an Oct. 31 deadline to have a work plan for identifying regulations for elimination or consolidation.

The governor's office also acknowledged that it was aware that the newspaper had been making inquiries of state agencies over the summer about regulations that had stalled for hundreds of days under executive review.

"Addressing regulations has been an effort that we have been working on diligently in recent weeks," spokesman Jeff Caldwell told the newspaper.

Thomas Lisk, a lobbyist for a wide range of industries, said there likely will not be enough time to implement a regulatory overhaul before McDonnell's term ends.

"If anyone identifies regulations to get rid of, there's no way to get rid of them before the governor leaves office," said Lisk, who also serves on the state Administrative Law Advisory Committee that reports to the Virginia Code Commission. "They couldn't get the (repeal) regulations on the governor's desk before the new governor is sworn in."

The executive review requirement was first implemented almost 20 years ago under then-Gov. George Allen. A task force appointed by Allen had recommended that new regulations be approved by the governor unless they were exempt under the Virginia Administrative Process Act.

The goal was to give new regulations closer scrutiny. But it created a huge bottleneck, said William Leighty, who served on the task force and later worked as chief of staff for two governors.

"Little did I know when I helped formulate that regulatory process that I'd have to live with it as chief of staff."

Evaluating and approving even the most innocuous regulations have been slowed down due to the expanded executive role, participants say.

"The more difficult you make it to change regulations, the more difficult you make it for government to adapt to changes in regulated industries," Lisk said.

A review process is established by each governor through an executive order. Typically, there is no deadline and the governor's office is given broad latitude.

A 2009 study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found that the executive orders' review provisions added substantial amounts of time to the regulatory process.

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