Cut regulatory burden in W.Va.

Promises made during political campaigns often are forgotten within days after elections occur.

And pledges made by losing candidates are, by definition, of no value.

West Virginia legislators should put a proposal by state Senate President Bill Cole on their front burner, however, even though Cole will not be present when they begin their 60-day regular session in a few weeks. Cole, R-Mercer, ran for governor and was trounced by Democrat Jim Justice.

During two years in which he presided over the Senate, legislators accomplished a great deal of good in making the Mountain State more attractive to job-creating businesses. Tort reform was a gold-star achievement in that regard.

But as Cole pointed out during the campaign last fall, another obstacle needs to be whittled down. It is the regulatory burden on businesses in our state.

While campaigning in Wheeling, Cole remarked that our state has 230 different regulatory boards, compared to 90 in most other states. Those boards set and enforce rules businesses must follow.

In addition to fees companies small and large must pay, often merely to support the operations of government boards, regulations discourage businesses in many other ways.

First is the direct cost of compliance in dollars and cents. Second is the cost in lost productivity.

“Any rule or regulation should have to do with the public’s health, safety and welfare,” Cole said in Wheeling. “But we get in so much deeper than that, and we’ve got to get out of it.”

Precisely. The burden of complying with federal regulations is bad enough. Everyone, regardless of where they are located, must deal with those, however.

Unnecessary state regulations can convince business people to locate new enterprises elsewhere – or to move existing ones to other states. That happens regularly in West Virginia.

Republicans who are in the majority in both houses of the Legislature will miss Cole’s leadership this year. But his proposal to cut the regulatory red tape should survive.

And it should be embraced by Gov.-elect Jim Justice, who, as a businessman himself, certainly understands the problem.


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