OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma's governor this week ordered state agencies to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and begin eliminating nearly a quarter of the regulations that govern the state.
In an executive order, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered all state agencies to begin a comprehensive review of thousands of rules and regulations.
Before a state agency can create any new restrictive regulations, it must eliminate two, according to the order.
Stitt wrote that the state's administrative code contains 16,430 pages, 145,296 restrictive phrases, and 9.3 million words. It takes about 515 hours to read. The state's code is double the size of Kansas' and 20 percent larger than the ones in Missouri and New Mexico, he said.
"In order for us to become a Top Ten state, we must reduce outdated and burdensome regulations that overshadow our economy, while protecting those regulations necessary to preserve public health, welfare, and safety," Stitt said in a statement. "Our goal is to reduce red tape by 25 percent in the next three years, providing relief to Oklahoma's job creators and farmers and ranchers, while also strengthening our recruitment efforts to diversify and grow Oklahoma's economy."
Byron Schlomach, director of the 1889 Institute, said President Donald Trump implemented a similar national policy after he was elected. The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma think tank that promotes limited and responsible government along with free enterprise.
Schlomach praised Stitt's order.
"It just makes us that much stronger to get government out of our business as much as possible," he said.
But, he said the burden is on Stitt to ensure future laws are specific enough to be implemented without a lot of agency discretion.
Schlomach said Oklahoma legislators often have an idea of what they want to accomplish, but no idea of how to do it. Instead, they pass laws giving the authority to promulgate new regulations to state agencies.
For the plan to work, Stitt needs to veto "lazy-lawmaking" measures that give more rulemaking abilities to state agencies, Schlomach said.
"I think he's done a great thing (in) that he's taken responsibility to roll some of this back, but it's also his and the Legislature's responsibility going forward to not create more opportunities for this," Schlomach said.
State Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, said Stitt's new rules appear arbitrary and more like political talking points rather than policy solutions.
He said he's also concerned about the potential consequences.
Likening the state's regulations to a giant Jenga game tower, Bennett said pulling out a few blocks here and there might not destabilize things. But, pulling out the wrong ones or eliminating too many structural blocks would cause necessary regulations to collapse.
Bennett said there are only so many regulations on the books that don't have much of an impact. He fears the governor's edict may start harming regulations that are meant to keep drinking water clean, air quality fresh, and children safe.
"I worry that politics like this sort of risk important regulations that protect the people for the sake of a talking point," Bennett said.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.