Gov. Ralph Northam and General Assembly leaders announced a bipartisan regulatory reform deal Monday that aims to reduce state regulations by 25 percent within three years.
In a news release, Northam and House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said they’re backing legislation to establish a pilot program that will target “burdensome and unnecessary regulatory requirements facing hard working Virginians.”
“Promoting the health, safety, and prosperity of Virginians is the chief mission of our state agencies, and regulations can be a helpful tool in that mission,” Northam said in a prepared statement. “However, we have a responsibility to constantly evaluate every regulatory requirement and policy to ensure that it is doing its job in the least restrictive way possible.”
With negotiations underway on a major Democratic priority, Medicaid expansion, Northam’s willingness to sign a regulatory reform bill drew praise from Republican leaders who have long argued that overbearing government rules impede the economy. As originally filed, House Bill 883 would have created a pilot program that would require state agencies to submit two or more existing regulations to be “replaced or repealed” before a new regulation can be approved. A substitute bill being filed this week removes the two-for-one requirement, which was similar to a federal regulatory reform order President Donald Trump signed shortly after taking office.
“We know that red tape hinders entrepreneurs, innovators, and small and large businesses alike from creating more of the good paying jobs that our people need,” Cox said.
It’s not clear which specific regulatory requirements will be on the chopping block, but the legislation will focus on the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services — which regulates and licenses security guards, bail bondsmen, private investigators and tow truck drivers — and the broader Department of Professional and Occupational Licensing, which oversees a wide array of industries including architects, plumbers, real estate agents, cosmetologists and professional boxers.
Democratic leaders from the House and Senate also indicated they’re on board with the legislation, which was sponsored by Del. Michael Webert, R-Fauquier.
Virginia voters may also be asked to weigh in on the state regulatory process later this year.
Republicans are pursuing a constitutional amendment to give the General Assembly more power over the Executive Branch by allowing the legislature to override rules and regulations adopted by state agencies. The proposed amendment passed the General Assembly last year. If approved again in the current session, the issue will be on the ballot for a voter referendum this fall.
Republicans and Democrats have filed bills taking aim at specific regulations they want to scale back.
On Monday, the House passed a bill to specify that hair salon workers who only clean, style or blow dry hair do not have to get a state-issued license. It also specifies that shampooing is not among the more sensitive chemical treatments that require extra government oversight.
“We don’t need to be regulating shampoos,” said Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, the bill’s sponsor. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want big government in my hair.”
Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, brought his daughter, Ally, onto the House floor Monday as a living argument for why the state should not include hair braiding in its cosmetology regulations.
“When her friend provided her with a beautiful hair braid, she decided to compensate her with a dollar,” Freitas said. “And that is when her descent into crime began.”