Sen. Kane co-sponsors bills aimed at reducing and eliminating regulations [Hartford Courant]

March 21, 2014

Article as it appeared in the Hartford Courant

Labor Commissioner Palmer Stunned By Regulation On Women’s Working Hours

State labor commissioner Sharon Palmer could hardly believe it when her staff generated a list of state regulations that should be eliminated.

They had been acting under a directive from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to search for obsolete regulations that could be wiped off the state books.

One of the regulations they found – still on the books today – says that no woman can work alone between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

“Is that funny or what?’’ Palmer said Thursday as she burst out laughing. “We’re not sure how old it is. It could be 50 or 60 years old. We’re not sure. Very, very old. … I think it could go back to the turn of the century.’’

The regulation is not enforced, but the state legislature is now considering a bill that would eliminate similar regulations that the Malloy administration describes as “obsolete, duplicative, excessively burdensome, or otherwise ineffective or unnecessary.’’

Palmer, a longtime labor leader who was nominated by Malloy to be labor commissioner, said the long-ago regulation writers were likely trying to reflect the views at the time.

“It really shows how things have changed attitudinally,’’ she said. “They thought it was probably dangerous and Lord knows what else. … We had a very hearty laugh over that one, particuarly since [economic development commissioner] Catherine Smith and I chaired the commission on women’s wages.’’

While there were other outdated regulations in the highly complicated world of labor law, Palmer said the one involving women stands out.

“That was the most outrageous,’’ Palmer said. “The rest of them were pretty mundane.’’

In an ongoing process dating back to October, Malloy’s administration has been moving to find outdated regulations.

The state has accumulated more than 15,000 pages of regulations through the years that affect everything from business to labor and housing to the environment.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, for example, will be eliminating a regulation regarding a specific pesticide that has not been used in Connecticut in 35 years. At the same time, the state has much newer regulations on pesticides.

In addition, the books for the Department of Economic and Community Development still refer to programs that have since been eliminated by the state legislature – including some that are decades old.

Since the state building code was adopted more than two decades ago, some conflicting regulations in the Department of Administrative Services will be sliced out of the books as unnecessary. Also, certain housing regulations are outdated because the programs are no longer funded by the state government.

Malloy issued an executive order on the issue in mid-October 2013, directing commissioners to find rules that should be eliminated. The plan, though, does not cover any new regulations that have been created during the past four years. The regulations under Executive Order No. 37 relate directly to the executive branch and do not include other agencies in other branches.

A bill on the issue was submitted on February 7 during the first week of the legislative session, and it is now being considered by the Government Administration and Elections Committee. The Democratic-controlled committee has a deadline of March 28 to act on bills.

But Republican state Sen. Kevin C. Kelly of Stratford said the plan would eliminate less than 7 percent of the state’s regulations, adding that the state needs an ongoing effort to constantly review regulations.

“Connecticut’s many onerous and burdensome regulations inhibit job growth,” Kelly said Thursday. “It is encouraging to see the governor making efforts to eliminate unnecessary regulations, but it is only a small start with a temporary fix. More must be done to cut the red tape that hurts our local economy and hinders employment opportunities.”

He added, “What Connecticut really needs is a continuous, statutory process that identifies and repeals obsolete and/or burdensome existing regulations. The governor’s proposed legislation would help streamline future regulatory changes, but it does not establish a process for consistent review of regulations already in place, which continue to place burdens on jobs and the people of Connecticut.”

Kelly has co-sponsored two bills with Sen. Rob Kane on the issue, including one that would for force state agencies to reassess their regulations under the law at four-year intervals. His second bill would allow the legislature’s bipartisan Regulations Review Committee to submit recommendations repealing agency regulations.
Malloy says that state government is just taking the first step at this point.

“We must constantly monitor those regulations to ensure they are up to date and comport with existing programs,’’ Malloy said. “Agencies should be provided the tools for making necessary changes in a quick and efficient manner’’ as regulations need updating.

The bill is