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Home > News > Testimony Regulatory Fairness and Reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 14, 2011
Contact: Charles Summers
207-626-8400

Secretary of State Summers Testifies before Regulatory Reform Committee
Offers regulatory assistance for small businesses

AUGUSTA, MAINE — Secretary of State Charles Summers testified before the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform today.  The Secretary’s testimony appears below.

Testimony of
Charles E. Summers, Jr., Secretary of State
Department of the Secretary of State

Before the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform
Hearing Date:  February 14, 2011

LD 1, An Act to Ensure Regulatory Fairness and Reform

Senator Courtney, Representative McKane, members of the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform I am here today to testify in support of LD 1 and am encouraged by your intention to craft and enact legislation to improve Maine’s regulatory process.  I believe the Office of Secretary of State can be a key ally in this effort.

Given our shared interest in a better regulatory climate in Maine, I respectfully request that you consider the following elements in your regulatory reform package.  I believe these proposals will allow the Secretary of State to play a more active role in ensuring that our regulatory processes work for Maine’s citizens and employers.

Specifically, I suggest the following four steps aimed at ensuring Maine’s small businesses are not disadvantaged by the state regulatory process:

1

Create, within the Office of the Secretary of State, the position of Small Business Advocate,  who will assist businesses when established agency procedures fail to resolve problems or disputes.

The duties of the small business advocate would include:

  a)

Accept and review confidential complaints of improper actions by a regulator against a small business.

  b)

Recommend a Stop-Action declaration to Secretary of State (see #2, next page).

  c) Chair a new small business/regulatory agency advisory board made up of small businesses and regulating agencies.
     
  d)

Monitor and report on agency compliance with small business protections within the Administrative Procedures Act.

2)

Empower the Secretary of State to issue temporary stop-action orders upon the advice of  the Small Business Advocate.

A stop-action order would instruct a regulatory agency that is subject to a claim of improper action, to take a specific course of action or refrain from a specific course of action in order to protect the claimant small business from significant hardship while the Small Business Advocate is assessing the claim.

Stop-Action authority is not a substitute for the formal appeals process, nor could the Secretary of State reverse adjudicatory determinations.

3)

Empower the Secretary of State to enforce agency compliance with the small business protections within the Administrative Procedures Act.

This proposal would require that the Secretary of State certify that agencies have complied with the small business protections within the APA before a regulation can take effect.

Amendments to the Maine Administrative Procedures Act (APA) enacted in 2007 require regulating agencies to engage small businesses in the development of regulations that affect them. However, it is not clear that agencies are complying with these new procedures.

4)

Establish the Secretary of State as the chair of the Regulatory Fairness Board and move staffing responsibilities to the Office of Secretary of State.

Currently the State Planning Office (SPO) is charged with providing assistance to the Regulatory Fairness Board and board appointments are made by the Governor. This structure does not provide adequate independence from the executive branch, whose functions the board is charged with reviewing.

It is my sincere belief that imbedding these new responsibilities within the Office of Secretary of State will create an independent, accountable and appropriate check on the state’s efforts to regulate Maine businesses.

While these new duties would require legislative changes to the functions and authority of the Secretary of State, I believe they can be effectively executed within the existing resources of the Secretary of State’s Office. 

I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with you to strengthen Maine’s business climate in Maine.