Commentary

Former cop yells ‘freeze’

January 19, 2023 6:24 am

Let it go, let it go. (Getty Images)

Your governor issued a couple executive orders last week of the anti-regulatory variety.

One of the orders calls for somebody to explain why all occupational license requirements even have the right to exist, while putting a moratorium on any new licensing regulations.

Occupational licenses can sometimes be goofy, and not just in Nevada. Sometimes they seem driven not by an impulse to protect consumers and/or the public, but by professions hiring lobbyists to legislatively shield themselves from competitors. (Gov. Joe Lombardo’s order mentions the possibility that Nevada’s licensure system “may expose the state to anti-trust liability,” which would be a more intriguing point if anti-trust wasn’t mostly a moribund legal concept in the United States).

Do interior designers need to be licensed? Or animal trainers? Or sign language interpreters? Those are some of the professions singled out by the last Republican who ran for governor, Adam Laxalt, who put anti-licensure noises in the nonsense he cobbled together as an economic plan. Getting rid of occupational licenses has long been a bugaboo with a segment of Nevada’s professional ideological right. 

But that doesn’t mean reforming, and scaling back, occupational licensing requirements is entirely a horrible idea. Maybe. In some cases. And if done carefully and without jerking right-wing knees.

That said, just as revisiting occupational licensing may not be a bad idea, nor is it as important to the economy as Lombardo (like Laxalt before him) would like you to believe.

And the typical systemic trouble with Nevada licensing boards themselves involves cronies, laced with the occasional grifter, conditions that probably call for more oversight, not less.

All hail ‘key industry stakeholders’

The governor’s other executive order puts a freeze on all new state regulations. Oh, unless the regulations apply to:

  • public health
  • public safety and security
  • regulations needed to get federal funds and certifications
  • regulations having to do with “powers, functions and duties essential to” whatever department is affected by the regs (this one sounds like the proverbial truck-sized loophole)
  • judicial deadlines
  • compliance with federal law

But yeah, other than that, it’s a total freeze on all new regulations. And there must be at least one or two regulations currently being promulgated that don’t qualify for exemption under the multiple exceptions listed above. Probably.

The order also commands state agencies to do “a comprehensive review” of regulations and prepare a report on which ones can be “streamlined, clarified, reduced or otherwise improved,” and directs agencies to include a recommendation of 10 regulations the agency should remove.

Why 10? Why not 8? Or 12? Or 17 and three-eighths?

The regulatory “freeze” order looks designed to toss up boilerplate anti-government custom and culture talking points instead of reaching evidence-based conclusions.

As part of preparing the reviews, agencies are also directed to hold public hearings with “key industry stakeholders” in case there are “other regulatory changes stakeholders feel are worthy of consideration.”

That sounds awfully industry friendly. 

It also sounds redundant. 

Since when has any “key industry stakeholder” in Nevada ever had a problem getting the attention of legislators or governors, let alone regulators, if there was some regulation that displeased the industry? Nevada’s nickname is “the Silver State,” but it could just as appropriately be “the Regulatory Capture State.”

Nearly every new governor in Nevada (and probably every other state) begins their administration by ordering some “comprehensive” top-to-bottom “review” of the government that governor is newly in charge of, no doubt believing that because they are so uniquely special they will find oodles of things that are ill-advised, burdensome, or counterproductive – things that their predecessors, being mere mortals, failed to see. Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn called his version a “fundamental review.” His predecessors Bob List and and Bob Miller used the term “reorganization,” while his successor Jim Gibbons created a commission on waste and inefficiency.  

Those exercises amounted to very little, as each new chief executive comes to the realization that everybody working in government isn’t as dense and obtuse as routinely assumed by a certain segment of the populace.

Which is to say the public-facing consequence of the regulatory “freeze” may not extend much beyond an initial set of splashy headlines containing the words “freeze” and “regulations,” and subsequent, less prominent headlines noting that, well, the freeze doesn’t apply to that regulation. Or that one. Or that other one, etc.

The process will also cost a buck or two though. The governor’s revised state budget will be released shortly. It’ll be interesting to see if any money is allocated for all this comprehensive reviewing, and if so, where the money will come from.

And for the departments and agencies, as well as the boards, commissions and/or legislative panels that monitor them, the practical impact of the regulatory ‘freeze’ may be just a bunch of annoying busywork. 

A version of this column originally ran in the Daily Current newsletter, which you can subscribe to here

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.

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