Three Pillars of Regulatory Reform

Iowa’s Administrative Code contains over 20,000 pages and 190,000 restrictive terms. Utilizing the three pillars of regulatory reform to re-shape Iowa’s regulatory system is a way to propel our state ahead.

We all remember our civics and social studies classes that taught us about government, don’t we?  We learned the separation of powers between the three branches of government- Legislative, Executive, and Judicial- is one of the foundations of our republic.  Our school days instructed us that a legislature makes the laws, an executive enforces the laws, and a judge interprets the laws.  These systems of checks and balances that are provided in the constitutions of our federal and state governments protect the rights of the individual and limit the power and overreach of government.

In practice, policymakers can lighten the regulatory burden on Iowa citizens and businesses by applying the concept of separation of powers to three pillars of regulatory reform: Legislative Oversight, Executive Accountability, and Judicial Integrity

The first two pillars are somewhat easy to understand.  Legislative Oversight in Iowa could be enhanced by a targeted legislative review of major rules or a sunset review for existing regulations, meaning the legislature reviews agency rules on a periodic basis to determine if the rules should be retained, reformed, or repealed.  Executive Accountability could simply mean Iowa’s chief executive (our governor) signs-off on certain rules before they go into effect, instead of delegating that authority to agencies.

Judicial Integrity is the pillar that even Schoolhouse Rock might not have been able to explain so clearly.  What it really means in the context of regulatory reform is individual liberty is valued equal to government agency decisions in court rulings. When we consider the depiction of Lady Justice, blindfolded, holding the scales of justice, it symbolizes that the court’s role in government is to consider both sides of a case equally and weigh the merits of both sides to give a fair and impartial ruling. At present, Iowa law dictates that judges ruling on legal challenges to state agency decisions give deference, or prioritization, to state agency rulings when considering challenges to agency decisions; this unfairly tips the scales of justice in favor of the government over the individual. Iowa code could be changed to require de novo (Latin for “of new”) judicial review over the current agency deference standard, restoring the scales of justice back to a neutral stance and ensuring the right of the individual to a fair and impartial judicial outcome.

Governor Kim Reynolds issued an executive order earlier this year that aims to rein in the “proliferation of administrative rules and regulations at all levels of government.” In that executive order the governor noted that Iowa’s Administrative Code contains over 20,000 pages and 190,000 restrictive terms.  Despite many limited-government advances on other fronts, Iowa’s regulatory burden remains one of the heaviest in the Midwest.  Utilizing the three pillars of regulatory reform to re-shape Iowa’s regulatory system is another way to propel our state ahead.

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