Sunday, February 13, 2005

Arnold Finds Regulations Not That Bad After All

Health & safety and environmental and consumer regulations are bad. They hurt business, and the economy and workers and...

Oh, nevermind.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger took office, he vowed to whack away at a tangle of California regulations he blamed for choking the frail state economy.

In one of his first acts as governor, Schwarzenegger put an immediate six-month freeze on hundreds of pending rules and directed his staff to get rid of anything that was putting a crimp on business.

Consumer groups braced for the worst. They expected the Republican governor to take aim at hard-fought protections for everything from the environment to consumers.

Instead, during his first year in office, Schwarzenegger embraced the kinds of rules he railed against during the campaign.

After perusing scores of regulations, Schwarzenegger's administration gave the green light to higher fees on businesses and new fire-safety regulations for mattresses. It OK'd pioneering water-conservation standards for washing machines opposed by manufacturers and noise-reduction rules that drew the ire of off-road enthusiasts. It cleared the way for higher fees on farmers and endorsed tougher safety rules for construction workers.
Wonder why?
"More often than not, the regulatory process comes out with something people can begrudgingly live with," said Gene Erbin, a Sacramento attorney who represented the mattress industry and worked to ensure the industry could work with the rules. "The process worked as designed in this case."

Robert Fellmeth, head of the Center for Public Interest Law, said the entire process underscores the notion that the much-maligned regulatory process, while not perfect, is not the devil incarnate portrayed by its critics.

Like Erbin, Fellmeth said business groups usually have advocates on the regulatory boards who are able to work out a happy compromise, despite public perceptions.

"Most rules, believe it or not, are supported by industry because industry is in control of most of these agencies," he said.