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The GOP's message
Republicans in the Oregon Legislature are feeling frisky.
Which is no surprise, considering the gains the GOP made at the state Capitol in the November election.
GOP candidates took six seats in the House to even the slate at 30 Democrats, 30 Republicans.
And Republicans gained two seats in the Senate, although the Democrats still hold a 16-14 majority there.
Among the more interesting of the proposals put forward by the newly empowered GOP leadership in Salem is a call to ban state agencies from enacting new rules for two years.
(Although the Legislature makes laws, state agency officials often pass administrative rules needed to carry out those laws.)
Republicans say excessive regulations are discouraging businesses and thus prolonging the effects of the recession.
“As we walked Main Street over the last few months, excess paperwork and over-regulation were among the top barriers to growth and job creation,” said Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, the John Day Republican who represents Baker County.
In a general sense, the GOP’s proposed rule-making moratorium has merit.
In fact, even when the economy is thriving it’s reasonable for lawmakers to remind bureaucrats that the making of rules ought to be a rigorous process, with the burden on the agency to show why a regulation is necessary.
Nonetheless, we’re not convinced that a blanket prohibition on all new rules for two years is either necessary to achieve the GOP’s goals, or wise.
What if, for instance, it becomes clear during the next two years that the lack of a certain rule has led to unsafe working conditions in certain types of businesses?
The state, and by extension the Legislature, would be derelict in its duty were it to ignore such a situation.
Senator Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland, also makes the compelling point that loan programs designed to help small businesses could not have been created without administrative rules.
We doubt those are the sorts of rules Ferrioli and the other GOP leaders are worried about. Yet the wholesale ban they advocate would doom the good rules along with the bad, just as Roundup will kill your dahlias as well as your dandelions if you’re not careful where you spray.
Ultimately, we hope the GOP’s proposal prompts the Legislature to send a bipartisan message to the Legislature. That message being: Redouble the effort to ensure that new rules are not only necessary, but are designed so that the people and businesses affected can comply with as little hassle, and expense, as possible.
Those should be the standards now, of course.
But sometimes a reminder is in order. We’re optimistic that the revived Republicans in Salem have sufficient clout to make sure that reminder resonates.