OPINION: How Idaho ushered in the largest regulatory cuts in state history

Wednesday June 19, 2019

By Governor Brad Little

When I took office as Idaho’s 33rd Governor in January, I was determined to follow through on my promise to reduce regulatory burdens on Idaho citizens and businesses.

Six months later, we have cut or simplified 40 percent of Idaho regulations! Idaho’s work is setting an example for other states and the federal government to follow.

How did we do it? Through a combination of efforts, some planned and one unexpected.

Within my first few weeks in office, I issued two executive orders aimed at scaling back Idaho’s Administrative Code – the Red Tape Reduction Act and Licensing Freedom Act of 2019. Those executive orders are on my web site here: https://gov.idaho.gov/executive-orders/

The agencies within my administration already had begun their examination of rules to cut back when the Idaho Legislature in April chose not to pass routine legislation reauthorizing Idaho’s administrative code. The Legislature’s decision put the onus on me to choose which rules should stay and which rules should go by July 1.

In response to the situation, I used my executive authority to direct agencies in my administration to expedite the regulatory reduction efforts already set in motion by my earlier executive orders.

The agencies collectively held more than 40 public meetings, and I opened a public comment period welcoming feedback from Idahoans on rules identified for expiration or reauthorization.

All told, our work resulted in the elimination of 20 percent of all rule chapters. Another 20 percent of all rule chapters were significantly simplified.

For example, the Idaho Department of Insurance eliminated 17 chapters of rules and renumbered all remaining chapters to better group the health insurance, title insurance, and life insurance rules together. The Idaho Division of Building Safety had 16 separate rule chapters on logging safety. They were consolidated into a one-stop shop rule, simplifying compliance and eliminating 7,000 words in the process.

There was a good deal of silliness that made its way into our laws over time. We eliminated a rule from 1961 establishing the state’s deputy veterinarian “must be attired in neat, clean and correct clothing” and “at all times have proper behavior, be alert, animated, agreeable and have pleasant manners.” I am sure our state deputy veterinarian will be glad to know he won’t be breaking the law from now on if he comes to work with an untucked shirt!

The Legislature’s unexpected decision was not something I asked for and didn’t necessarily want at first.

However, the work over the past six months has undeniably transformed Idaho’s administrative code into a set of rules that are easier for Idahoans to understand and navigate.

When I took office, Idaho had 736 chapters and 8,200 pages of rules. Our efforts in a few short months cut 900 pages of regulations.

We took advantage of an opportunity to turn government on its head: working with citizens in an open, transparent process, we envisioned the entire administrative code gone and decided what should stay.

I am very proud of the agencies within my administration for sharing my enthusiasm to clean up and simplify our laws. I hope other states and the federal government look to Idaho for what can be accomplished with some boldness and creativity.

(532 words)