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Words from Winterbilt

We need to reduce the regulations?

Shannon Bohrer

(6/2017) For many years we have heard that our government is too big and it has too many regulations. The current administration promised to shrink the government and reduce the numbers of government regulations. The President issued an executive order requiring that for every new regulation enacted by the government, two regulations had to be deleted. It sounds good to say that for every new one, we get rid of two. After all, we are overregulated and over burdened by the regulations, arenít we? We often hear how the over burdensome regulations hurt business and is bad for the economy.

However, just for the sake of discussion, is there a downside to eliminating two regulations for every new regulation created? I think the answer is, "It depends." It depends on what the regulations are for and what the regulations accomplish. If the regulation is frivolous and does not add to the safety or wellbeing of the citizens, then the regulation could be eliminated. Conversely, if the regulation is helpful in securing the safety and wellbeing of the citizens, maybe eliminating it would be a mistake. When making arguments - for and against government regulations, we should also consider that not everyone would be in agreement as to what adds to the safety of the citizens. There are times when regulations can help someone while creating a burden for another. Regulations that ensure product safety cost more to manufacture, but they also ensure safety. Donít they?

"I do have a political agenda. It's to have as few regulations as possible." - Dan Quayle

Arguments for and against regulations has been playing out In Frederick County for several years, as they relate to event venues. An event venue is used for large gatherings, meetings, reunions and weddings. While there are commercial businesses that cater to events, there has also been a proliferation of event venues opening in agriculturally zoned areas. There are groups on both sides of this issue. Business owners that want to operate a business in agriculturally zoned land are in favor of regulations that allow the practice. However some of the neighbors of those businesses have been vocal about the noise, traffic and other issues - that negatively affects their lives. One recurring complaint is that neighbors are so disturbed by the hours and hours of music, that they have to retreat to the inside their home. Then when inside their home the music is still so loud that their windows rattle. Most people would not like that.

Along with these arguments we have the issue of property rights - on both sides. The business owners say they have a right to conduct, non-agriculture activities on farmland, because the county created a law that permits that business. The business owners also say they can have amplified music, because of the county noise ordinance that sets a limit of 65 decibels and they are in compliance. According to the property owners that live next to these events, their property rights include being able to peaceably enjoy their property. They believe the enjoyment of their property includes not having to listen to uninvited music for hours. As one person said, itís like being at a very loud party that is greatly annoying Ė and not being able to leave. The property owners also present an argument that with an event venue as a neighbor, their property value declines. This is a significant issue that is being ignored Ė at this time.

What is unusual about the issue(s) with event venues is who wants the regulations and why. The normal complaint about government and regulations is that the regulations create a burden on small business owners. That complaint is the reason that our federal government now wants to reduce the numbers of regulations. Remember the two for one? However, in this case it is the business owners that want the regulations. These are regulations that allow behavior. They allow the events and they even allow the noise.

There are restrictive regulations that prohibit actions and there are permissive regulations that allow actions. The issue of regulations that are permissive and/or restrictive I believe is important. Will the government add restrictive or permissive regulations? Additionally, if the government eliminates two regulations for each one enacted - will they be restrictive or permissive. Regulations on mineral and oil mining on federal lands can be permissive, allowing the practice and they can be restrictive, prohibiting the practice.

Financial regulations for financial institutions - which this administration says they want to reduce, are generally restrictive, but the history is also mixed. The history of dealing with financial regulations goes back for well over 150 years. Generally, a lack of early regulations was thought to be good for free markets, which were believed to be good for the country. Of course the Great Depression that started in 1929 was a large clue that free markets were not always beneficial. Responding to the depression congress passed "Glass-Stegial Act" which regulated financial institutions. The act created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which separated investment and commercial banking. When the act passed nearly 5000 banks had already failed. With the FDIC, the federal government was now providing insurance for depositors. The insurance funds were provided for by the banks themselves. The act also separated the investment and commercial banks, as the government did not wish to provide insurance for the gamblers. By that I mean investment banking.

Glass Stegial was a success and worked well from 1933 until 1999 when it was repealed. Nine years after the repeal we had a financial collapse. Maybe some regulations are good? After the financial collapse in 2008 the congress instituted some additional financial regulations and now the government wants to eliminate them. Does Congress have a short memory? If anything, maybe we should go back to "Glass-Stegial."

Things that are obvious are not necessarily true, and many things that are true are not all obvious. - Dr. Joseph LeDoux

Our history of permissive and restrictive regulations includes the manufacturing and chemical industries, remember the Superfund sites? There are places so polluted that you could not live there. As of August 2016, there were 1328 Superfund sites. The places/sites were created in large part because of a lack of regulations. In 1980 congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to deal with the polluted sites. The good news is that since it was created 391 sites have been cleaned up, or delisted. The bad news is that 55 additional sites have been identified. Not all restrictive regulations are bad.

I am sure that there are many regulations we could eliminate, but maybe we should examine the regulations before we eliminate them. Maybe the real answer may be in the middle.

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer