Commentary: Federalism Provides Unique Opportunity to Put Georgians First

Benita M. Dodd

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Every year, the Washington, D.C.-based Competitive Enterprise Institute releases “Ten Thousand Commandments,” an analysis of the numerous federal rules and regulations that govern Americans’ lives.

This year, CEI’s first chapter is titled, “9,999 Commandments? Six Ways Rule Flows Have Been Reduced or Streamlined.” It examines President Trump’s executive order to reduce regulation and control regulatory costs; specifically, that two regulations be eliminated for every “significant” regulation issued.

In spite of the effort to reduce red tape, “The overarching reality is that the government is far larger than ever, and Trump’s executive branch reorganization initiative undertaken alongside regulatory streamlining resulted in the elimination of no regulatory agencies,” CEI declares.

Even with Trump’s directive, CEI notes, in 2018, federal agencies issues 3,368 rules and Congress enacted “only” 313 laws: 11 rules for every law enacted.

The government-industrial complex is understandably bent on self-preservation: Reducing government’s size means reducing government jobs and many businesses’ access to taxpayer dollars. Elected officials come and go while bureaucrats – with their unique institutional knowledge – easily circle the wagons, dig in their heels and make reform as difficult as possible.

Federalism – the separation of state and federal government roles – is a blessing and a curse. Much policy at the federal level affects the states – healthcare, immigration, taxation, trade, environment, to name a few – and federal mission creep can stifle innovation and opportunity. Forward-thinking states can take steps, however, to preserve their independence and improve their regulatory environment.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s commitment to do just this became evident on his first day in office, January 14. He issued an executive order to create a Georgians First Commission that would “evaluate state government and identify regulations, policies or procedures which negatively or unnecessarily affect small businesses.”

He vowed to make Georgia No. 1 for small business and reinforced that goal when naming the 18 commission members: “I believe that we need businesspeople, not bureaucrats, to renew our processes, challenge the status quo and get government out of the way,” he said.

Since it was established in 1991, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation has worked on policies that would limit government and promote free enterprise and individual initiative. The Foundation’s experts are chomping at the bit to provide input on how to improve Georgia’s business climate and individual opportunity.

For example:

Occupational licensing: Expedite and streamline professional licenses and embrace reciprocity with other states.

Criminal justice barriers: With one in 18 Georgians under correctional supervision – an improvement over one in 12 when Gov. Nathan Deal and the Legislature began justice system reforms – it is crucial to reduce unreasonable hurdles facing those who have paid their debt to society and seek to work or open businesses.

Taxes: Georgians deserve to keep more of their money in their pockets, to improve their quality of life, expand their small businesses and ensure the state can compete against its neighbors.

Dignity of work: A recent study found the best incentive for upward mobility in low-income communities is someone working in the household. Implementing work requirements for able-bodied individuals receiving welfare or Medicaid benefits not only promotes self-sufficiency but provides role models in families and communities.

Regulatory hurdles: Entrepreneurship is often stifled by reams of unmerited, costly requirements: permits, fees, archaic and arcane prohibitions, and applications with lengthy turnaround time from state and local agencies.

Educational hurdles: Practical and life experience are sometimes worth more than a degree, yet educational requirements can be a barrier to opportunity. It is past time to encourage apprenticeships, mentorships and other alternative routes to opportunity.

There’s more, of course. The odds are daunting. As President Reagan noted, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!”

Kemp seems bent on proving Reagan wrong. The promise of the Georgians First Commission is enormous for Georgians, and its expressed determination to put Georgia first by reducing the role of government and putting Georgians first deserves enthusiastic applause and assistance.