COLUMBIA — Leaders of a task force set up by Gov. Nikki Haley to trim state regulations promised at their first meeting Thursday to not strip S.C. codes.
“We are not here to eliminate regulations,” said task force chairman Mark Lutz, vice president of a multimedia company and a member of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board. “Regulations are important. We need to help protect the citizens. We need to help protect the environment. We’re all about streamlining.”
The state’s 16 cabinet agencies that report directly to Haley plus DHEC have until May 15 to send suggestions to the task force on regulations to appeal or amend.
A final report is due to Haley, a Republican from Lexington, and lawmakers by Nov. 15, in time to introduce bills for the 2014 session.
“It’s not only how do we identify the low-hanging fruit but the biggest-impact fruit,” Lutz said. “And that it’s packed up in a way that it’s blindly easy to act on.”
The 10-member task force includes three legislators as well as representatives recommended by state business, health and environmental groups.
Some task force members asked if they could examine regulations at non-cabinet agencies – the Department of Natural Resources, Public Service Commission and Department of Agriculture. The Governor’s Office will ask those agencies if they want to be included in the task force’s review.
At the first gathering, members shared problems they have with South Carolina’s businesses rules.
“I despise government regulation, every form and fashion,” said Dan Dennis, who owns a Columbia engineering firm. “It strangles the lifeblood out of our small businesses. Most of it is unnecessary.”
Dennis, who is chairman of the S.C. Department of Commerce’s small business regulatory committee, said 187 state agencies can issue regulations. As a result, business owners break rules they don’t realize exist.
“Ignorance is not an excuse,” said Buddy Young, owner of a West Columbia bus company. “But it’s just a massive overload of what we have to deal with.”
Phil Waddell, who co-owns five businesses, said some agencies won’t speak to business operators without a lawyer, which adds to costs and leads to higher prices.
“We need to find a mechanism that helps small businesses navigate this that does not cost them a fortune,” he said.