Tackling Mississippi's regulatory problem

By Aaron Rice
July 31, 2020

Now would be a great time for the Occupational Licensing Review Commission to take a deep dive into Mississippi’s regulatory burden and cut what is unnecessary, duplicative, outdated, or that stifles economic growth.

Enacted four years ago, the OLRC is made up of the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. In their original form, they were tasked with reviewing all new regulations from boards and commissions that are run by active market participants. Meaning, a Board that is comprised of individuals who work in that field. For example, the Board of Medical Licensure is made up of medical doctors, the definition of market participants and any new regulations or changes they propose have to go through OLRC. 

The premise is basic: A board should not be able to design regulations to stifle competition and benefit individual members in that field.

The Board of Health, on the other hand, has various members and the department has their hand in numerous industries. Therefore, they are not subject to OLRC, which is unfortunate because they make up about 15 percent of all regulations in the state.   

So, the OLRC is limited in what they can do, but their power has now been expanded. Instead of just reviewing new regulations, they can now go back and review – and potentially remove – current regulations. That came through House Bill 1104, a bill MCPP championed this year as part of our push to decrease burdensome regulations in the state.

Secretary of State Michael Watson, one of the members of the OLRC, recently unveiled his office’s new ‘Tackle the Tape’ initiative, a first step in addressing these problems. 

“I’ve heard too many stories and witnessed numerous Mississippi businesses suffer from the unfortunate consequences of overregulation,” said Watson. “If we truly want to create more opportunities and breed renown entrepreneurs, we have to get government out of the way. As promised when I ran for office, cutting the regulatory burden on Mississippi businesses was, is, and will continue to be a priority for our team. Our voluminous regulation costs us 13,000 jobs per year, which is the equivalent of a new Ingalls Shipbuilding or Nissan locating here on an annual basis. We must do better!”

Watson’s office has reached out to the various licensing boards under OLRC’s jurisdiction in an attempt to partner with the boards in reducing the state’s regulatory burden. We can hope that will have an interest in this process. 

In 2018, as part of a national review of state regulations, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University found Mississippi has nearly 118,000 regulatory restrictions on the books. All told, the state code book includes 9.3 million words, and it would take about 13 weeks to read if all one did was read regulations as a full time job. 

Overall, Mississippi’s regulatory load is about average for a typical state, but when compared to some of its neighbors, a clearer picture emerges. A new Mercatus Center analysis summarizes data from eight southern states stretching from Kentucky down to Florida and over to Louisiana. Of these states, Florida has the most regulatory restrictions at 171,000. However, if one adjusts for the fact that a bigger population tends to generate more regulation, Florida is, by that measure, actually the least regulated. Of the group, Mississippi has the most regulations per capita (and the lowest GDP per capita). 

More populous states tend to have more industries, denser urban areas, and other factors that generally contribute to a higher number of regulations. This explains why California, Ohio, New York, and Texas are all among the five-most regulated states in America, despite having very different political environments. 

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed deep shortcomings in the regulatory system. To ensure an adequate amount of health care coverage, governors around the country have been relaxing—not increasing—regulations. This includes easing restrictions on telemedicine, recognizing medical licenses from other states, and in some states, rolling back requirements that health care facilities obtain permission from regulators before adding new equipment like hospital beds.

But much more is needed. 

As the pandemic continues to ravage the country, and the nation’s regulatory system is simply not up to the task. There is an opportunity to rectify the situation if our leaders will heed the call.


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