By Melissa Anders | 
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LANSING — The state has been cleaning house the past two and a half years, scrubbing hundreds of administrative rules in an effort to trim red tape and promote business growth.

While many of the rescinded rules are obsolete, unnecessary or even unenforceable, some regulatory changes have raised concerns among environmental activists and others keeping an eye on the process.

Michigan State Capital at Dusk

In 2011 Republican Gov. Rick Snyder created the Office of Regulatory Reinvention within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The office has reviewed more than 19,000 rules and so far has rescinded 1,950 rules. Some rules were replaced with others, and new ones were added, so the net rule reduction comes out to 1,554, the office announced Thursday.

Many of the changes were recommended by eight Advisory Rules Committees (ARCs) that studied regulations on the environment, inspections and permitting, insurance and finance, liquor control, natural resources, occupational licensing and workplace safety. The committees, which included various stakeholders and state employees, have so far publicly released 320 recommendations.

While some recommendations involve rule changes, others require legislation. So far the state has implemented more than 100 ARC recommendations, with more expected.


• See the eliminated rules here.
• Search for rules here.
• Read the Advisory Rules Committees reports here.
• Provide comments and feedback to the Office of Regulatory Reinvention here.

Source: Office of Regulatory Reinvention

Even if a rule hadn’t been actively enforced, businesses had to wade through the regulations to determine if they’re in compliance.

“That’s the reason that we thought it was so important to give these rules a good scrub, to clean them up, and to get rid of this superfluous and obsolete language,” said Kevin Elsenheimer, a deputy director at LARA who oversees the ORR.

One somewhat unconventional rule requires child care workers in Michigan to smile. He said those rules, which will be removed in January, are unnecessary and impossible to enforce.

Many changes have occurred without much public attention. Others have garnered more interest, namely those involving air quality rules, occupational licensing, and alcohol regulations.

Environmental groups contend some changes would put public health and safety at risk, such as a proposal to reduce the number of toxic air contaminants that would be subject to certain regulations. Supporters of the change say it would bring Michigan more in line with other states while still exceeding federal regulations and protecting public health.

Environmental activists also have spoken against an overhaul of Michigan’s wetlands regulations. Michigan is one of just two states that have stricter rules than the federal regulations, and that’s appropriate given the state’s reliance on its fresh water system, Jack Schmitt, deputy director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

James Clift, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, participated in the environmental rules committee. He said he agreed with about two-thirds of the recommendations, but thought the rest either minimized public health concerns or just weren’t efficient or cost-effective changes.

“I wouldn’t say they don’t care (about public health), but they care more about making the businesses happy, and that’s where we’re concerned,” he said. “We think they’re undervaluing the public health of Michigan residents.”

Some deregulation is needed to help Michigan’s small businesses succeed, said Lonnie Scott, director of liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan.

“If that’s the intent, then that’s one thing,” he said. “There’s this other deregulation that just seems to be for deregulation’s sake that really seeks to just increase corporate profits, often at the expense of worker or environmental safety. I think that’s where we get into problems.”

For example, Scott said the repeal of Michigan’s item pricing law was a “terrible mistake” that seemed to help businesses more than consumers.

Elsenheimer said that the state’s goal is to continue to protect public interests while getting rid of burdensome rules. He used the example of a rule requiring businesses to submit a certain wastewater report that was not used by environmental regulators. Another policy required auto insurers to produce large, detailed rating process booklets for their policy holders.

Eliminating those rules, he said, saves businesses time and money but doesn’t have a real-world impact on the public. In the insurance example, some companies spent $1 million each year to produce the booklets. Policy holders can still get detailed information upon request.

Businesses take note of a state’s regulatory environment, said Jason Geer, director of energy and environmental policy for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

By paying attention to business needs and making it easier for them to operate and expand here is “huge in changing the image of the state” as a “more competitive and a better place to do business,” he said.