Pennsylvania Senate panel addresses 'red tape,' aims to cut down on regulations

Pennsylvania has about 153,000 regulations on its books – a number, in the opinion of the head of a state Senate panel tackling red tape and bureaucracy, considered excessively high.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Chambersburg, chair of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, offered strong, sometimes barbed comments at a more than three-hour meeting about the condition of Pennsylvania’s current regulatory structure, which he frequently stated is onerous and limits economic growth.

“I believe that reducing regulations and bureaucracy is one of the most important jobs that we have in the Senate and in Harrisburg,” Mastriano said. “Finding realistic ways of tackling that is why we’re here.”

Speakers offering up testimony at thi smonth's meeting included representatives from a number of state agencies, including the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

Mastriano and other lawmakers on the committee had especially strong comments about the protocol within the DEP.

“Sadly, DEP, you’re the poster child of what’s wrong with state bureaucracy,” Mastriano said. “I’d ask not to just work on your image, but to work on your implementation. You’ve got to get off the backs of my taxpayers. It’s a problem when I haven’t heard a positive remark.”

State Sen. John DiSanto, R-New Bloomfield, also called for changes at the committee meeting.

“I don’t want to be negative. I want to work with DEP, but there’s got to be a culture change,” DiSanto said. “I’m willing to work with you, but there’s got to be a change in how we do business in Pennsylvania.”

Jessica Shirley, policy director with the DEP, said the agency is open to refinement, but defended many of the past and current practices. The agency, Shirley said, needs to adhere to federal regulations.

Shirley and Ramez Ziadeh, executive deputy secretary for programs within the DEP, also defended the agency’s implementation of regulations, pointing out efforts are made to gather feedback and respond to complaints and concerns.

“The public notice and response process is an important aspect of the permitting process,” Ziadeh said. “The public participation process is integral to the protection of public resources and infrastructure, as well as private property.”

Other speakers offering up testimony shared how current regulations impact the business climate across the state.

Rebecca Oyler, state legislative director with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said the existing regulatory environment is a common concern the organization hears from its more than 13,000 Pennsylvania members.

“We hear from NFIB members all the time that they could grow bigger and hire more people, if only the government didn’t get in the way,” Oyler said. “They say that many of the regulatory burdens they deal with are costly and time-consuming and don’t seem to have much to do with safety or health.”

Also weighing in at the committee meeting was Carl Marrara, vice president of government affairs with the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association. Marrara said the organization would support legislation lessening regulatory burdens in the state.

“The goal of Pennsylvania policymakers should be to make it the smart business decision for employers to locate, expand and hire here, in this commonwealth, rather than in one of our competitor states,” Marrara said.