by Mary Taylor, Lt. Governor of Ohio
In January 2011, when we first came into office, Gov. John Kasich and I promised to make Ohio a more jobs-friendly state. That was a time when Ohio faced significant challenges: our economy was in freefall, families and communities were struggling, and small businesses were unable to grow and create jobs. A solution was urgently needed. We needed to turn Ohio into a destination for business investment, a place where decision-makers were eager to invest and grow instead of remaining the forgettable “fly-over” state we had become for too many job creators. As one key component of that solution, the Kasich Administration focused on the way state government regulates with the goal of making the system more efficient, less burdensome and less expensive.
So, four years ago, in one of his first decisions as governor, John Kasich asked me to lead Ohio’s Common Sense Initiative (CSI) to reform and improve Ohio’s regulatory environment. Our goal was simple: improve the regulatory process in Ohio by encouraging more interaction with stakeholders and requiring a common-sense justification for any impact a regulation might have on job creators.
Immediately, we worked with the state legislature to pass bipartisan legislation, Senate Bill 2, which provided CSI with the legal authority to make top-to-bottom improvements in state government’s rule-making processes. We also worked with broad groups of stakeholders — large and small businesses, their employees, environmental advocates, laborers and industry associations — to create our CSI program in a way that serves Ohioans best. The results show we’re having a real impact.
It’s now a requirement that any new or existing business regulation with a potential impact on job creation must be submitted to the CSI office for review. The agency submitting the rule must also provide a thorough analysis to show that the impact is justified. In other words, does it make common sense?
This is important because it ensures state agencies cannot continue to regulate without first considering and evaluating the impact of their actions. The CSI process requires agencies to work directly with the stakeholders affected by their regulations to get answers to those questions.
But CSI is much more than a rule-making process — it represents a change in culture and a new way for state government agencies to think about their regulatory role and be able to address issues that actually impact businesses on a daily basis. Our goal is to help solve problems when a business — or an entire industry — is running into barriers created by government. For example, in 2011 we were able to help change an Ohio law that required a food manufacturer to purchase, uncork, sterilize, and pour 140,000 pounds of Merlot wine — one bottle at a time — for one recipe for bulk distribution. Since those changes, that business decided to stay in Ohio, completed a $5 million expansion, and created more jobs.
We also worked with the Children’s Hunger Alliance to ensure its school nutrition program could continue to serve thousands of children across Ohio. Various regulatory burdens placed on the program’s summer lunch program put that entire effort at risk in 2013. Applying common sense instead of blind regulation, CSI worked with multiple state agencies to eliminate regulatory concerns and allowed the program to continue providing school children with healthy meals and snacks each and every day.
In the four years since its creation, CSI has reviewed more than 5,000 rules. Of those, 57 percent have been eliminated or changed. Applying common sense in this way helps to ensure that Ohioans are not burdened with unnecessary government red tape that prevents job creators from hiring more Ohio workers or investing in their businesses. These efforts — along with a balanced budget, $3 billion in tax cuts, and other proactive initiatives by the Kasich Administration — have helped turn around Ohio’s economy to the tune of more than a quarter million new jobs and an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent — the lowest in eight years.
I am proud of the progress we have made to date, just as I am committed to continuing our push for more common sense and less red tape in every decision we make. But there is more work to do, and CSI will continue to improve its processes in the coming months and work even more aggressively with stakeholders to ensure state government is operating more efficiently and effectively for all Ohioans.
Mary Taylor is Ohio’s lieutenant governor.