The Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, chaired by state Sen. Doug Mastriano, held a public hearing in Chambersburg Dec. 12 to hear from regional businesses, economic development specialists and others on the need for regulatory reform.
Entitled “Regulatory Reform, Red Tape Reduction and Transparency,” the hearing was hosted by Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe.
“Most of us want to live our lives and run our businesses with as little government interference as possible, yet it seems like the Harrisburg bureaucracy has lost its way and forgotten who it works for – it works for us, the taxpayers,” said Mastriano, who a Republican who represents a portion of Franklin County, including Chambersburg and Waynesboro, in the Senate.
“Instead of working for us, or with us, it seems like government is working against us in many ways,” continued Mastriano. “Clearly, our government bureaucracy is too bloated, too cumbersome, too out of control and is indeed against us. It is time that we rein it in and hold it accountable.”
"The testifiers repeated a common narrative of overregulation by detailing the burden that confusing, redundant and time-consuming regulations place on their business activities," said state Rep. Paul Schemel, a Republican whose district includes Greencastle and Antrim Township. "While all agree that the government has a legitimate oversight role in ensuring safety and environmental protection, the consensus was clear that our regulatory state is out of control.
"Pennsylvania has over 104,000 individual regulations. For many organizations, just keeping track of the regulations and complying with them consumes staff time and organizational effort," according to Schemel. "In addition, extended delays on permit approvals mean that businesses have to wait months, even years, in order to move forward with their plans. These burdens and delays are making Pennsylvania less competitive.
"There are several legislative efforts aimed at reining in the regulatory state, including bills that would repeal outdated regulations and require that state agencies first jettison an old regulation before enacting a new one and improve permit processing time," Schemel continued. "As I noted during the hearing, the very least we can do as a legislative body is to stop creating new regulations and mandating new licensed occupations. I hope the we can do more than this, but it would be a good start."
What they said
The committee heard from more than a dozen speakers, with expertise including economic and land development, regulatory code, business advocacy and municipal government. Small business owners also took part.
Franklin County Area Development Corp. President Mike Ross told the committee that excessive regulations and unfunded government mandates are a major determinant in a decision to expand or start a business in Pennsylvania, or to relocate to another state.
Bryan Burkholder, vice president of Shively Motors in Chambersburg, outlined one burdensome regulation. The Pennsylvania Department of State requires that each vehicle salesperson undergo a criminal background check, including a separate background check from each state that the applicant resided in the last five years. The department will not accept a 50-state background check, even though they are available. Obtaining individual state background checks means salespeople are hired but may wait weeks before they can actually perform their job.
Representing the host venue, Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe Executive Vice President J. Anthony Martin participated as a panelist. Adams County businessman Mike Showers of Aspers spoke about the selective enforcement that he has faced from state agencies.
The panel also heard from other businesses in the region, the York County Economic Alliance, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Chambersburg Borough, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, Department of Environmental Protection and statewide business groups.
Mastriano noted that the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee was assigned several pieces of legislation that would update and modernize the regulatory review process, and that testimony received during the hearing will be a valuable tool as the panel considers the legislation.
“It is time that we get the government off our backs and out of our wallets,” said Mastriano. “Pennsylvania needs to reassert that it is open for business and the government is working for the people, not against the people.”