The regulatory reform law was made better when both sides agreed to give a little.
It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like L.D. 1, the regulatory reform package signed into law Monday by Gov. LePage.
The governor called it a “good down payment” on transforming Maine’s business climate, and a campaign promise kept. Senate President Kevin Raye said it would help “lift the burden that has shackled and held back Maine’s job creators for too long.”>/p>
And Democrats hailed it as a bipartisan success story, in which members of the minority party were able to influence the bill and scale back some of the most extreme proposals, eventually producing a law that received a unanimous committee report and near-unanimous support in the House and Senate.
With all that positive feeling, our only reservation is that the new law is still better known for what it doesn’t do than it is for what he does.
Notably, the law does not repeal the Kid-Safe Products Act, as Gov. LePage recommended at the start of the legislative process. It does not end the protection of vernal pools or rezone one-third of the vast Maine woods for development, which were ideas floated but later withdrawn by the LePage administration.
Instead, we have a law that promises to give businesses, both big and small, a faster and more certain path to receiving their permits, and to give them guidance and support from an advocate in the Secretary of State’s Office.
Only time will tell if that is enough to make a difference in the Maine economy, but there are enough positive signals around this package to give us reason to hope that it will.
First, there was the process that produced it. Instead of coming up with a list of ideas and conducting a series of “hearings” to sell it, lawmakers went to the business and environmental communities with open minds and listened to what they heard.
Then there was the spirit of compromise, in which both sides gave on points to make the final bill better. Businesspeople say that what they most want from a regulatory process is predictability, and bipartisan, incremental reform is much better than a one-party bill that veers off dramatically and that could veer back just as fast with a change of party control.
Legislators from both parties deserve credit for working through these issues, and Gov. LePage can also be proud of pragmatically delivering on a key campaign promise. If this is a model of how state government can work, there is indeed a lot to like.