Citizen activists and conservative politicians have longed for less regulatory burdens on businesses and citizens.

However, Idaho seems to have exceeded their wildest plans.

Failure to legislatively bless the state regulatory code in a timely manner is now allowing Idaho’s governor sweeping authority to eliminate thousands of state-approved rules without public participation or lawmaker oversight.

That’s because the state Legislature, which is controlled by Gov. Brad Little’s fellow Republicans, failed to pass a bill approving 8,200 pages containing 736 chapters of rules and regulations that touch on just about every aspect of daily life in Idaho.

The measure died when the legislative session concluded last week amid open acrimony between the chambers.

The rules Little is now reviewing include such things as protecting consumers, homeowners, the environment and school children. They range from hunting and fishing licenses and seasons to licensing for health care professionals and construction contractors. They are mostly products of the state’s obscure but important negotiated rulemaking process that involves public participation.

Idaho’s governor is not using this unique situation to try anything drastic.

“I’m not looking at this as an opportunity to do mischief,” Little said during a public appearance Tuesday. “I do not want to exacerbate this thing. This was not our deal. We did not do this.”

Little has made clear his desire to cut regulations in Idaho, issuing an executive order in January requiring state agencies cut two rules for every new one.

Alex Adams, administrator of the Idaho Division of Financial Management — or Little’s budget chief — has the job of going through the 8,200 pages.

“We are working closely with the (state) agencies,” Adams said. “We would not make any decision that is not supported by the agencies.”

James Broughel, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, is following the developments in Idaho closely. He notes that the state is demonstrating how “sunset provisions” can be effectively used to stop regulations from stifling citizens with petty rules, endless fees, and outdated guidelines.

…In the past, academic research has found that sunset provisions are sometimes ineffective. Legislatures and agencies often readopt regulations without much thought. To work well, sunsets may need to be structured such that large swaths of rules expire simultaneously, with reauthorization responsibilities falling to the legislature rather than regulators. Sunsets are perhaps most useful when rules are allowed to lapse and then forced back through the rulemaking process all over again. That way they can be subjected to public scrutiny, cost-benefit analysis, and perhaps even court challenges.

The main constraint now facing Idaho state agencies is time—they could use more of it. Regulators have just two months to decide which rules should stay and which should go. With more time, they might be able to tweak and modernize those regulations deemed necessary; instead, many rules may simply be readopted without changes.

In 2018, Idaho earned the title of fastest-growing state in the country, based on analysis from the U.S. Census Bureau. It is also leading the nation for the rising cost of housing.

Idaho ranks number one in the nation for the fastest year-over-year home price change, according to a new report by the online mortgage marketplace RefiGuide.

The study compared the median home prices published by Zillow Research Data from March 2018 to March 2019 and showed Idaho has risen 17.2 percent – 10 percent higher than the national average.

“Idaho leads the country with home prices increasing by 17.2 percent last year, driven by strong demand in the Boise market,” the study says.

RefiGuide reports that since the end of the recession in 2009, home prices have, on average, climbed over 50 percent from the lowest point.

“This is great news for homeowners whose homes may be worth more than their pre-recession values, but less great news for homebuyers who can afford less house for the dollar,” according to the report. “What’s more is that in some places, home prices have spiked much faster than average, while in other places, home prices have remained depressed.”

As a Californian, I can understand the appeal. What’s not to love about potatoes and freedom?


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.