Cutting the red tape in Tallahassee — for real

In Gov. Ron DeSantis’ speech to a joint session of the Legislature on opening day a few weeks ago, he said: “Tax lightly, spend wisely and regulate reasonably.” That is a perfect encapsulation of solid conservative governance. But we don’t always spend enough serious energy on the last point: regulation.

Regulations as much as taxes — and sometimes more — can strangle the private sector, put the breaks on the economy and kill job opportunities. One obvious example of this is the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, which slathered on expensive and time-consuming regulations along with penalties that weighed down the recovery. But most regulatory burdens are not so obvious and are harder to root out.

So Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez and I are co-sponsoring a bill that will force the giant state apparatus to pare back regulations, too many of which are just unnecessary and burdensome. HB 729 bars state agencies from passing new regulations unless they also cut other regulations.

The bill tasks the Administrative Procedures Committee with reviewing the state’s administrative code and totaling up all of the rules that are in effect — no small task in itself. The results must be completed by Jan. 1, 2021 and that number will then be used as the “regulatory baseline.” The bill then requires all state agencies to reduce their total regulations by 35 percent from that baseline.

Each time an agency wants to pass a new rule, it must provide at least two rules to cut before the new rule can be implemented. This process is followed until the state reaches the required 35 percent reduction in total regulations. At that point, state agencies will operate under the requirement that for each new rule it wants, it must cut one existing rule.

HB 729 does not apply to emergency rules and allows exemptions for the one-for-one requirement if new rules are deemed “necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare.”

Our bill also creates a nine-member “Red Tape Reduction Advisory Council” inside the Governor’s office, which will be made up of five members appointed by the Governor and two each appointed by the Senate President and Speaker of the House.

The council, which will meet quarterly, will review the Florida Administrative Code for rules that are “especially burdensome” to business within the state, or disproportionately affect small businesses — defined as those with fewer than 100 employees or less than $5 million in revenue. It will also seek out duplicate or obsolete rules. Any one of these criteria will cause the council to recommend repealing the rules, as long as there is minimal impact on public health, safety, and welfare.

This fits with one of Gov. DeSantis’ top priorities. Within weeks of being sworn in to office in January 2019, he held a “Deregathon” to highlight the importance of carving away at the state’s regulatory turkey.

Rep. Rodriguez and I are working with Sen. Manny Diaz, who is sponsoring the Senate companion bill.

HB 729 is the same concept as was adopted by the Trump Administration at the national level with tremendous success. The feds have managed to cut two major regulations for every new one instituted since President Trump took office. Make no mistake, the unshackling of the private sector is part of what is driving our record-setting economy nationally.

Our bill will have the same impact on the Florida economy, which is already among the strongest in the nation.

Florida State Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, represents House District 73 covering parts of Sarasota County and Manatee County.