Maryland’s government is in need of a overhaul similar to one undertaken 45 years ago in order to change the regulatory culture of state agencies, according to a report released by a commission appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan.
The Maryland Business Regulatory Commission made the recommendation as part of its first report to the governor and called the current system of overlapping and confusing regulations unwieldy and a “compelling systemic issue” reminiscent of the complicated governmental system that was overhauled 45 years ago by then-Gov. Marvin Mandel.
“This overlapping regulatory jurisdiction of multiple state agencies causes unnecessary delays and expense for many applicants and a considerable loss of productivity for state employees, agencies,” according to the report. “In 1969 and 1970, Governor Marvin Mandel led a complete restructuring of Maryland state government by taking the existing 248 different agencies and departments and combining them into 11 departments. Governor Mandel’s restructuring brought Maryland state government into the 20th century. Forty-five years later, the state’s governmental structure is again convoluted and lacks continuity. It is time to bring Maryland government into the 21st century.”
The report also calls for the creation of an independent customer service call center where businesses and others can get answers to questions and referrals, as well as pushing agencies to begin accepting applications and required plans electronically. In cases where multiple agencies are involved in overseeing a project, the commission called on Hogan to create a system where one of those agencies acts at the primary point of contact and coordinator.
Hogan’s regulatory reform commission is expected to meet over the next three years. The report released Wednesday is only an interim report, but the recommendations could become part of the governor’s 2016 legislative package.
Earlier this year, the Augustine Commission, which was appointed last spring by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., delivered a report that resulted in five bills that will become law on Oct. 1. One of the new laws created a process to examine the impact that proposed regulations would have on business climate before they are enacted.
Hogan’s commission is meant to focus on the messier process of examining existing regulations, looking for places where they can be streamlined, eliminated or otherwise made more customer-friendly.
Hogan, in brief comments before Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting, said the goal will be to make government more customer-service oriented.
“We want to change the mindset that you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Hogan said. “That your job is to tell [people] why you can’t do something or how we’re going to stop you from doing something to, ‘How can we assist you in meeting the regulations and accomplishing what you’re trying to accomplish?’”
Hogan said the effort will be “a primary push” for his administration.