Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More limits on state rules proposed

A new bill that limits state rule-making is moving through the N.C. Senate in this legislative session's last days.

Introduced by Republican Sens. David Rouzer, Harry Brown and Don East, the bill aims to "balance job creation and environmental protection" by making rules easier to comply with. It echoes, but goes farther than, language in the Republican-crafted budget that blocks most state environmental rules that are tougher than federal standards.

The measure requires state agencies to root out "unnecessary" existing rules each year. It calls for cost-benefit analyses of proposed rules, a standard that environmental advocates say handicaps the worth of resources that are hard to quantify such as clean water.

The Office of State Management and Budget would have to approve fiscal notes, including two alternatives, for rules that would have an economic impact "on all persons affected" of $500,000 a year or more.

The measure gives administrative law judges the ability to make final decisions on contested cases -- not just recommendations to the state agencies that issue fines, which now have the final say.

And it extends the term of many environmental permits from five to 10 years, with the exception of air-quality permits for major industries and wastewater discharge permits.

The Senate commerce committee reported the bill favorably Tuesday, sending it to the agriculture, environment and natural resources panel. Thursday is the deadline for bills to pass in one chamber in order to stay alive this session.