Governor acts to restrain the regulators In the capital

Order requires justification for exceeding U.S. rules

Red tape vs. jobs

Glendening wants to make government friendlier to business

February 02, 1996|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,SUN STAFF

As part of an effort to improve Maryland's business climate, Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday signed an executive order requiring state agencies to justify regulations whenever they are stricter than federal rules.

The order will not prevent agencies from adopting regulations tougher than federal standards, but could make it more difficult. The written justification will be reviewed by agency heads, the governor and a legislative committee with authority over rule-making before new regulations can be adopted.

Mr. Glendening said the order is part of a broader effort to make government more friendly to businesses and consumers. Regulatory reform, he said, is vital to attracting new jobs to Maryland.

"[This is] more important than changes to the tax code or economic incentives to creating new jobs," the governor said.

To make his point, Mr. Glendening held a news conference to congratulate Lehigh Portland Cement Co. which yesterday announced a $180 million expansion and modernization of its plant in Union Bridge in Carroll County.

Although the project and its 200 jobs were courted by other states, the company did not seek tax exemptions or loans but assurances that the required permits would be handled quickly by state environmental regulators, the governor said.

"The key was the commitment to move the permitting process in an expeditious fashion," said Richard Kline, the company's chief executive officer.

The plant will be the company's largest in North America and a major producer for the East Coast. The project is set to break ground next year and is expected to take two years to complete.

Mr. Glendening's executive order also appeared to be directed at defusing attempts within the General Assembly to take a more forceful approach to regulatory reform. The governor said there are times when state regulations should be tougher -- when they protect the Chesapeake Bay or address the state's high cancer rate, for instance.

"Some of the legislation being discussed requires that regulations have a 'compelling reason,' " Mr. Glendening said. "That is a legal term that carries a burden of proof in court."

The bill with that language was approved yesterday by the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee on a 13-10 vote. Supporters said the legislation sets the standard more explicitly than the governor's order.

Mr. Glendening also yesterday unveiled reports from four task forces working on specific areas of regulatory reform -- workplace safety, state procurement, assisted living and utility relocation.

The recommendations within the reports are meant to help Maryland firms land more business, better coordinate the actions of utility crews working in the field with agencies of government, make it easier for companies to open residential facilities that offer services to the elderly and make occupational safety rules less burdensome to employers.

Mr. Glendening took issue with criticism that reducing the regulatory burden would necessarily harm the environment or workplace safety. "It does us no good to prosper if we don't maintain the quality of life," he said. "It does us not good to preserve the environment if there are no jobs."

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