How One Democratic Governor Responded to the Recession

Gov. Gregoire Suspends State Rule-Making Process

For Immediate Release: November 17, 2010

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed an executive order suspending and limiting the state rule making process to help small businesses and local governments as the state continues its economic recovery.

“State rules are essential to protecting the health, safety, welfare and quality of life for Washingtonians. However, in these unprecedented economic times, this action will provide businesses with stability and predictability they need to help with our state’s recovery,” Gregoire said.

“The time and effort small business owners would put into meeting new requirements would be better spent in improving their bottom line, and adding new employees. This action will also allow local governments to focus their limited resources on the most critical issues in their communities.”

Gregoire stressed that small businesses are the key to our state’s economic recovery, adding that 95 percent of Washington small businesses have fewer than 50 employees. Small businesses also create two-thirds of all new jobs.

“We want businesses to create jobs,” Gregoire said. “And we want our partners in cities and counties to serve their communities as efficiently as possible. This executive order will also allow our state agencies to focus on delivering the front line services Washingtonians are depending on.”

Gregoire has directed state agencies to suspend new rule development and adoption. She also directed the Office of Financial Management to identify circumstances in which rule making may be authorized.

The Office of Financial Management’s guidelines allow agencies to continue with rule making proceedings if the rule is required by federal or state law, required by a court order, or critically necessary to manage budget shortfalls, maintain fund solvency or for revenue generating activities.

Agencies would also be allowed to move forward with rules that are necessary to protect the public from significant public health, safety and welfare risks, as well as those rules that are requested or supported by the regulated entities, local governments or businesses that it affects.

The executive order extends the suspension on rulemaking through Dec. 31st, 2011.

(Editor’s Note: Subsequent to the press release, Washington’s Department of Ecology sent out this missive:)

Dear Ecology Stakeholder:

On Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010, Gov. Chris Gregoire directed state agencies under her jurisdiction to suspend non-critical rule development and adoption activities until the end of 2011. (Executive Order 10-06. More information is available at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/laws-rules/ECYrulemoratoriumupdate.html).

Her decision to do this is responsive to what she is hearing from the broader regulated community. They are telling her they are struggling in this difficult economic climate to meet current regulations – not only environmental regulations, but others as well – and that a time-out on new rules is something government can do to help.

As one of Ecology’s valued stakeholders, you may be wondering what this means for the draft rules that are in process now. If Ecology is currently accepting comments on a rule proposal we will continue to do so until the end of the comment period previously announced.  We are reviewing the Governor’s exemption criteria to evaluate which rule-making, if any, will be exempt from her order. We expect the range of circumstances that might be considered for exemption to be narrow.

Much of Ecology’s rule-making work is required by the state Legislature or is in response to changes in federal rules or legislation. Some of our draft rules under way simplify reporting requirements for businesses, synchronize state and federal rules, modernize cleanup standards, and ensure local government eligibility for federal construction dollars.

The moratorium doesn’t extend to other regulatory work we do, such as permitting and policy guidance.

In the spirit of the Governor’s effort to help businesses and local governments, Ecology will put increased emphasis on providing technical assistance and helping the regulated community comply with permits and other existing regulations. We will also direct additional resources to enforcing existing laws and requirements.

As we learn more about this moratorium, we will do our best to keep you apprised.


Polly Zehm
Deputy Director

NOTE: Here is a direct link to rules that Ecology has identified so far as being critical under the governor’s criteria.

(Editor’s Note: Might be more interesting to see what the “non-critical” rules are. The  “critical” ones seem fairly expansive. Nonetheless, something for Governor-elect Brown to consider.)


Filed under: Budget and Economy

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