Louisiana scores low marks for ‘regulatory openness’

By William Patrick | The Center Square

Louisiana’s regulatory environment earned a grade of D in a recent study assessing “regulatory openness.”

The study was conducted by the conservative group Freedom Works on the basis it is easier for people to track public policy through elected officials than through administrative agencies.

When governors, state legislators, mayors and city councils propose policy changes, residents can express support or disapproval at the ballot box or direct communication, such as writing a letter or calling an elected official’s office.

“But when it comes to bureaucratic agencies, public engagement can be difficult,” the group said, suggesting regulatory openness is a critical factor for government responsiveness and accountability.

Unlike the federal government’s unified regulatory process, each state has its own regulatory regime and associated processes. The differences vary greatly, Freedom Works found.

As such, Louisiana – with a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled Legislature – ranked near the bottom of the 50 states with an overall regulatory openness score of 67 out of 100.

Georgia, Indiana, New Hampshire and New Mexico also received D grades, while six states received a grade of F; California, New Jersey and Illinois were among them. Utah, North Carolina, Idaho, South Dakota, Connecticut and neighboring Mississippi scored A grades.

Each state’s regulatory openness was determined according to four criteria: ease of submitting comments, transparency, uniformity and restrictiveness. Each category carried a maximum score of 25 points.

When state governments consider regulations, a public comment period is usually required. Without sufficient notice or ease of submitting comments, however, regulations can evade public input and proceed to implement potentially far-reaching changes.

Louisiana law mandates that state agencies hold public comment periods for parties affected by proposed regulations, but study authors said the process needs improvement.

“Unfortunately, the state doesn’t always make this process easy,” the report said. “Few agencies, if any, accept comments online through their websites. Even worse, the standard regulatory notice does not include any sort of contact information for citizens to submit their views besides those for public hearings.”

Transparency also is lacking, the report said. Researchers found the Louisiana Register, a monthly publication of proposed regulatory changes, often fails to include comment period lengths and other important information.

The state’s highest graded category was in the uniformity of regulatory notices, 20 out of 25 points. The Louisiana Register was cited as a unifying link between state administrative agencies and the public, however the report determined it still would be “difficult for even an engaged citizen” to follow.

Regulatory restrictiveness was rated Louisiana’s lowest category, scoring only 13 out of 25 points. The area considered the overall impact of the total volume of the state’s regulations, which amount to 163,000 regulations spanning nearly every area of state governance.

In comparison, Mississippi had 118,000 regulations, and Texas, which scored an overall grade of B-minus, had 227,000 regulations. California was the most-restrictive state with 396,000 regulations.

“One of the fundamental principles of our republic is that citizens have a right to ‘petition the government for redress of grievances.’ Unfortunately, when it comes to regulation, this is much easier said than done,” the report concluded.

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