May 21, 2018
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Regulatory reform worked for Maine

By Bob Duchesne, Special to the BDN

There’s an old proverb: “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.”

In the case of LD 1, this year’s regulatory reform bill, has many fathers lining up for the paternity test. It’s fair to say that there is plenty of credit to go around.

During the last few months, lawmakers did what Maine people wanted us to: We listened, we compromised, and we worked across the aisle to help make it easier to do business in Maine.

After months of public hearings across the state and over a dozen work sessions, Democrats and Republicans crafted a regulatory reform proposal known as LD 1 that passed with nearly unanimous support.

The new law creates an environmental self-audit program that provides strong incentives for companies to promptly self-report, correct and prevent violations, including reducing or eliminating penalties and prosecution for environmental violations. Similar to the federal self-audit program, regulated companies would create a systematic, documented, periodic and objective review of operations and practices.

Violations would need to be reported within 21 days and corrected within 60. A company that is quick to resolve its violation faces no fines or prosecution. It’s a carrot, not a stick.

We boosted the power of the business assistance office within the Department of Economic and Community Development. Businesses can expect a real person, not just a hot line number, to get help with their problems. With more resources, the business assistance office will be able to better guide businesses to get the job done.

The office will be charged with resolving problems encountered by business owners with other state agencies. It will be a central clearing house of information for business assistance programs and will also serve as the feedback loop between businesses, the Legislature and the governor. It would report back on what’s working and what’s not.

LD 1 streamlined permitting and made the Board of Environmental Protection more efficient, without sacrificing citizen input or creating a more costly appeals system.

We eliminated unnecessary duplications of state permitting for fire codes and restaurant health inspections if municipalities already have licensed agents to perform those duties and we redefined reuse rules for certain hazardous materials. We also authorized regulatory agencies to conduct more cost-benefit analyses when warranted.

The new statute is not broad and sweeping. Rather, it is a set of incremental, common sense ideas that Maine businesses asked for.

Unlike some of the initial proposals, which met with significant resistance across the state, the new reform law has received support from both environmental and businesses groups.

It’s a bipartisan success story.

Bob Duchesne, D-Hudson, served as the lead House Democrat on the Regulatory Fairness and Reform Committee.

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