Gov. Larry Hogan launched a commission Thursday to examine which state regulations are making it unduly difficult to do business in Maryland — a charge that was a central premise of his upstart gubernatorial campaign.
“For years, over-burdensome and out-of-control regulations were making it impossible for businesses to stay in Maryland,” said Hogan (R), who is in elective office for the first time after building a successful real estate firm in Anne Arundel County.
He did not cite any particular regulations as problematic but said his administration would “focus like a laser beam on these issues.”
The governor said the Regulatory Reform Commission will look at all rules on the books, covering everything from transportation and labor to the environment and financial services. He said the commision’s 10 members will conduct hearings throughout the state to determine how rules affect “our primary mission of retaining, growing and creating more businesses and jobs.”
The all-volunteer panel will exist for three years. It is charged with producing annual reports detailing which rules have outlived their usefulness, failed to accomplish their objectives or caused more harm than good.
Democratic lawmakers suggested Thursday that they’re well ahead of Hogan on fixing the state’s business climate. Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery) noted that his party pushed through legislation that requires the state to consider how new regulations would impact small businesses and created the Augustine Commission, which provided recommendations this year for improving economic development.
“Larry Hogan should have known by now what the problems are and shouldn’t have needed three years to study the problem,” Frick said. “We’re taking action now and improving the situation.”
Hogan said Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) would oversee the work of the commission, which includes prominent figures in business and other leaders from across the state. Hogan named Jim Soltesz, a member of his transition team and head of a firm that is competing for work on the proposed Purple Line light-rail project, and Baltimore attorney Abba David Poliakoff to co-chair the body.
Soltesz, president and chief executive of the Soltesz civil engineering firm, is part of a private consortium vying for a partnership to design, build, operate, maintain and partially finance the proposed 16-mile light-rail line, which would run between Bethesda and New Carrollton. As a member of Hogan’s transition team last year, he led an early review of the state’s regulatory climate.
Hogan described Soltesz as a “longtime friend and true leader in the Maryland business community.”
The governor said the commission will not cost the state any money because its members will work on a volunteer basis. The State Ethics Commission cleared every member of the commission for their roles, he added. “We don’t have any concern about that at all,” Hogan said.
Shortly after taking office, Hogan halted more than 100 new regulations that his predecessor, Martin O’Malley (D), approved during his final days on the job.
Hogan described those rules Thursday as “job-killing regulations” and said freezing their implementation “was just the tip of the iceberg.”
Two environmental groups last month filed a lawsuit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court saying that some of the regulations were blocked illegally.
The Sierra Club and Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility argued that state law requires the administration to publish and enforce O’Malley’s 11th-hour clean-air rules because Maryland’s Department of the Environment adopted them on Jan. 16.
But the state attorney general’s office issued a letter to Hogan’s transition team in December saying that state courts were unlikely to find fault with pulling regulations any time before they were published in the official register.
Hogan wore a bright-green lapel ribbon to promote non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma awareness at Thursday’s announcement, as he has done since disclosing last month that he had been diagnosed with the disease.
He said he is doing “pretty well” after his first round of chemotherapy last week but acknowledged that his battle with cancer has “the potential of getting tougher in the weeks ahead.”
“My staff can tell you, I’ve been running them ragged,” the governor said. “They kind of wish I would be run down a little more.”