Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Senators would restrict state to federal standards

By DAN SMALLWOOD

Capital News Service

LANSING – A package of Senate bills would prohibit state departments from exceeding federal regulations when setting their own standards.

While the legislation wouldn’t be retroactive, such a law would factor into future regulations, said Shelly Edgerton, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) director of policy and legislative affairs.

Edgerton said it could also affect an ongoing review of state regulations in LARA’s Office of Regulatory Reinvention.

State standards exceed federal in some environmental regulations made with protection of the Great Lakes in mind and some worker rights.

The proposal would allow the Legislature to pass regulations that exceed federal standards – while barring administrative agencies from doing the same.

The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) thinks this could harm environmental protection efforts.

Hugh McDiarmid, communications director for the MEC, said flexibility for agencies to act more stringently than the federal government was paramount in allowing Michigan to take a leadership role on invasive species prevention efforts.

“It’s baffling why we would think Washington D.C.’s one-size-fits-all laws would best suit Michigan’s water protection efforts,” he said.

However, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce would welcome such a policy.

Jason Geer, a small business advocate and chamber partnership manager for the group, said federal standards should apply across state lines for the sake of consistency.

“Learning changes in law between different states is difficult,” Geer said. “Uniform standards, where it’s the same whether you’re in Ohio or California, are easier to comply with.”

However, Geer said there were instances where it would make sense for state regulations to exceed the federal government’s.

“There are special issues that we need to take a look at,” Geer said, “and we can address those separately.”

Edgerton said similar legislation last session predates the existence of LARA, which was the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth prior to April 25.

LARA Deputy Director Rob Nederhood said many provisions in the bills echo LARA initiatives. They include requirements for agencies to present regulatory impact statements prior to implementing new rules and to examine ways to minimize adverse impacts on small businesses.

Nederhood said small businesses should be considered when crafting regulations and LARA is already taking such steps.

Edgerton said LARA will be heavily involved in pursuing its recommendations for regulation-related bills in the Legislature.

“We will have discussions going forward,” she said. “We just have a lot to handle at the moment.”

Sponsors include Sens. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake; Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township; David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc; Jim Marleau, R-Lake Orion; and Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton.

The legislation is pending in the Committee on Economic Development.

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