Earlier this month, as Chair of the Red Tape Review Group, I presented Governor Christie with our final report, which presented realistic and tangible recommendations to make New Jersey a home for growth. Created by Executive Order 3, the Red Tape Review Group was a bipartisan panel given the charge to “review all pending and proposed rules and regulations” frozen under Executive Order 1, as well as all operative Executive Orders from previous administrations.
As this process unfolded, it was clear there is an urgent need for action to cut through New Jersey’s red tape, while maintaining a strong commitment to public health and safety. As mayors, you know well that what we do here in Trenton impacts job creators, families, and the effectiveness of local governments in delivering critical services throughout the state. Now, we have a clear opportunity to act to change that reality in a positive way. Reforming this climate is a critical, yet often overlooked, part of getting our economy back on track.
As part of the review, the Red Tape Review Group conducted three public hearings around the state. In these hearings, we heard directly from several municipal leaders on how our work in Trenton affects your work at the local level. This testimony and insight impacted our report and recommendations and gave us greater understanding of the challenges faced by municipalities in the current
The Group has recommended the withdrawal or modification of 16 of the 128 rules (12.5 percent). If 12.5 percent of the remaining 25,000 pages of rules were to be withdrawn or modified, continuing the Red Tape Review process could result in the elimination of over 3,000 pages of rules. This is the equivalent of approximately 111 chapters from the administrative code.
As part of our report, we also provided long-term legislative, regulatory and policy recommendations to ensure New Jersey government continues to streamline and more effectively coordinate services that impact economic growth and job creation. Many of these recommendations came out of the public meetings we held. Some of those recommendations include:
Changing the Culture of State Government The culture of state agencies has not been customer oriented. In too many instances when individuals seek a permit they are treated as though they are doing something wrong, rather than trying to do something that the law allows. Also, we must try to measure success in a new way. Not by the number of pages of rules imposed, or by the dollar amounts of fines collected, but rather by how our regulations improve the quality of life for the people of this state and how they meet our overall policy goals.
Giving Entities the Ability to Combat Unfunded Mandates Our report provides for new and expanded powers to combat unfunded mandates, including permitting the Council on Local Mandates to proactively seek out harmful mandates, enlarging the number of groups who can bring complaints to the Council, and enlisting the assistance of the state’s law schools to undertake a review of all mandates presently contained in the statutory law and administrative code. The Group has also recommended that a thorough review of outstanding unfunded mandates be undertaken. We hope to engage the law schools in New Jersey to conduct a comprehensive review of all regulatory or statutory mandates that continue impose costs on municipal government and local board of education budgets statewide.
Following “Common Sense Principles” State agencies should adopt the “Common Sense Principles” for rule-making. After hearing repeated accounts about the broken rule-making process, the Red Tape Review Group listened to testimony in support of the “Common Sense Principles” for rule-making laid out in Executive Order No. 2. The testimony before the Group generally viewed those guidelines as helpful in moving towards a more user-friendly regulatory process. These principles include advance notice of rules; time of decision; waivers of strict compliance; cost/benefit analysis; federal supremacy and performance-based outcomes. Those principles, in turn, have already begun to change the way state agencies do business, how they review the regulatory process, and even the substance of the rules and regulations that are adopted.
Better Information Technology at the State Level After hearing from business and municipal leaders about the stream of often duplicative paperwork requirements imposed by state agencies, the Group has recommended improvements to the state’s information technology systems. To efficiently coordinate and provide services, state government employees should have available appropriate views of “Customer Account” information that span organizational boundaries. Protocols and workflows that coordinate, improve responsiveness, and enhance and speed the delivery of integrated services will be automated, and used across departments and agencies.
Creating the New Jersey Partnership for Action The New Jersey Partnership for Action is the centerpiece of our Administration’s economic development agenda. It will serve as the starting point for all our initiatives, policies and efforts related to growing New Jersey’s economy and creating quality, sustainable jobs. The New Jersey Partnership for Action will operate through three interconnected and highly-focused organizational elements including Choose New Jersey, the Economic Development Agency, and Government Process Solutions. A central element of the partnership will be the creation of “one-stop shopping” for permits on significant new economic development projects. By mobilizing a staff of state employees who are dedicated to helping guide new projects to completion, New Jersey will be better positioned to compete with other states for jobs, and provide the kind of predictability and resources business leaders are looking for when making investment decisions.
Improving and Expediting the
Rulemaking Process The testimony received by the Red Tape Review Group made clear that it is overly difficult for a state agency to alter a rule proposal based upon reasonable and justifiable public comment. The “Administrative Procedure Act” should be revised to permit agencies to adopt substantive changes to proposed rules based on public comment without needing to undergo the entire rule-making process anew, provided that an additional public comment period is provided prior to the altered rule taking effect.
As you read the report, you’ll also see that the Group believes that policymakers in both the Executive and Legislative branches must work together to create a new paradigm for rule-making, where common sense is the norm. In short, the process will be more navigable, accessible, and fairer. We are striving to create a regulatory system in which stakeholders may disagree with the decisions made by state agencies, but recognize that the process used to arrive at those decisions was both appropriate and fair. I look forward to working with each of you, local leaders from across the state to streamline our processes, be more responsive to your needs, and ultimately get New Jerseyans back to work as a result of our actions.
This article appeared in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 87, Number 6, June 2010