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Cutting Oklahoma regulations a worthwhile pursuit

OAC means - Oklahoma Administrative Code
OAC means - Oklahoma Administrative Code

Gov. Kevin Stitt wants to see the number of Oklahoma state regulations cut by one-fourth by the time he leaves office. That goal may be overly ambitious, even if Stitt winds up serving two terms, but the effort is laudable nonetheless.

Stitt told a luncheon audience last week that his intention is to encourage business growth. Stacks of red tape do the opposite — and Oklahoma has plenty of that, as researchers at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University found.

The researchers developed a tool to analyze state and federal regulations. The tool allows them to identify the industries that states target most with their regulations, by connecting those industries to restrictive words and phrases such as shall, may, may not, prohibited and required.

According to a 2019 report, the Oklahoma Administrative Code had 145,296 restrictions and 9.3 million words.

“It would take an individual about 515 hours — or almost 13 weeks — to read the entire OAC,” the report said. “That’s assuming the reader spends 40 hours per week reading and reads at a rate of 300 words per minute.”

There also are 1.09 million additional restrictions in the federal code. Thus, “Individuals and businesses in Oklahoma must navigate these different layers of restrictions to remain in compliance,” the authors said.

Stitt mentioned that Oklahoma’s 145,000 regulations are double the number in neighboring Kansas, and exceed what’s on the books in Missouri and Arkansas. (Texas and Colorado have more regulations than Oklahoma.)

The Mercatus Center broke down the top 10 industries targeted by Oklahoma regulations. They are: professional, scientific and technical services; administrative and support services; paper manufacturing; ambulatory health care services; mining (except oil and gas); broadcasting (except internet); animal production and aquaculture; credit intermediation and related activities; educational services, and social assistance.

The No. 1 regulator in Oklahoma, according to Mercatus, is the state Health Department, with 17,407 restrictions. Next is the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates industries such as public utilities, with 12,781. The top five is rounded out by the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, and the Department of Mines.

The report’s authors note that federal regulations, which have been a target of the Trump administration, gain the most headlines but understate the true scope of regulation because state practices are often overlooked.

“Researchers are only beginning to understand the consequences of the massive and growing federal regulatory system on economic growth and well-being in the United States,” the authors said. “Meanwhile, the effects of state regulation remain largely unknown.”

Stitt plans to get input from business and industry leaders about which Oklahoma regulations to target, and to set up a website to take suggestions. Here’s hoping this effort proves fruitful — at least some trimming of the current 9.3 million-word OAC should be attainable.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›

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