What Would Real Regulatory Reform Look Like?

You can’t get within fifty yards of a Republican in California without hearing a salvo about getting government off the back of business in order to create jobs. Of course, when you look at their most recent proposals, they are really talking about gutting environmental regulations to reward major campaign contributors in the utility, extraction, telecom, and development industries.

But they do have a point.

The regulatory system in California sucks. California government from top to bottom is too fragmented, disjointed, and decentralized. Getting anything done takes too long and costs too much, and it’s been getting worse as the Great Recession has led to the Great Evisceration of government.

What would real regulatory reform look like, and how would we get there?

As a background, I am the kind of geek who spent a Saturday morning at a study session by MWDOC on streamlining environmental regulation.

I’ve used CEQA to delay a general plan, and as a Council Member, I have voted for and against EIR’s. I’ve looked at developing a challenging piece of property I own in the Tahoe National Forest. I read EIR’s and Mitigated Negative Decs for the fun of it, working backwards from the Appendices, and I know how to work a scoping session.

Really, how can the state of California simultaneously require that local planning agencies cut greenhouse gas emissions with better coordination of land use and public transportation while the state and local transit agencies are hacking away at existing systems?

But there are some general principles that could be implemented over time with some real leadership and a comprehensive effort that brought all parties to the table.

Many Different Problems

The problems are myriad. For most businesses, government regulation starts at the local planning counter, where

A Sustained Conversation

Let’s start with the first, and most important observation. There is no midnight deal in the legislature that will fix the problems with

Collaboration is Key

If you talk to someone guiding a major project, you will quickly discover that the first word on their lips is collaboration, and particularly early collaboration. CEQA and the other permitting requirements for major projects is a stunningly inefficient process for creating paper and shuffling it around. Every agency wants to be last in line to comment or approve, and the conditions demanded by one agency may require recirculation of an EIR so that other agencies could comment.