By Susan Montoya Bryan
LBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A special task force created by Gov. Susana Martinez is recommending that dozens of state rules and regulations be either revised or rescinded as part of an effort to develop a more positive business environment in New Mexico.
The Small Business-Friendly Task Force posted its 13-page report online late Wednesday. The governor signed an executive order creating the task force soon after taking office Jan. 1 and gave the panel 90 days to complete the review.
The rules and regulations that were reviewed cover everything from greenhouse gas emissions and oil and gas development to agriculture, health care and construction.
Martinez plans to review the recommendations and work with her cabinet, the Legislature and others to “ensure that sensible actions are taken to make New Mexico more business friendly,” spokesman Scott Darnell said Thursday.
“Not only would many of these recommendations make New Mexico more competitive and attractive for start-up businesses or those looking to relocate here, but they would presumably make it easier for New Mexico businesses to hire more workers as well,” he said in a statement.
During her campaign last fall, Martinez pointed to the state’s effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and rules governing the handling of wastewater by oil and gas operations as measures that were putting a strangle hold on New Mexico’s economy.
Darnell said Thursday the governor continues to see “cap-and-tax regulations” as job-killing measures.
Environmentalists and other critics weren’t surprised by some of the recommendations. They said any rollbacks would require the same time consuming and costly public process that state regulators went through in first adopting the rules and regulations.
Among the regulations being targeted are those adopted in the waning days of former Gov. Bill Richardson‘s administration to control greenhouse gas emissions and clear the way for the state to participate in a regional cap-and-trade program.
Bruce Frederick, an attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, acknowledged that New Mexico can’t solve the problems associated with climate change by itself but rescinding the new emissions rules would send the wrong message to other states and the federal government.
“It would send the message that waiting is OK, that waiting is the thing to do,” he said. “On the other hand, if these regulations stay on the books and they start to become enforceable, we want to look to exporting those things to other states and hopefully get the federal government to notice. That’s how things get done at the federal level.”
Like Frederick, others are concerned that the task force recommendations were developed by lobbyists and others who represented big business, rather than the “mom and pop” operations that the governor intended to help.
The panel’s more than two dozen members collectively represent some 10,000 small businesses, according to the task force report.
The task force said it has come up with recommendations that it believes will spur job growth and keep the state’s private sector competitive.
The first recommendation is that the state’s rules and regulations should not be more stringent than federal standards. The task force also recommends reviving the small business regulatory advisory committee so businesses will have a place to go to report problematic regulations.
The report also talks about the potential for a whistleblower hotline for businesses to file complaints about permits or regulations or to seek help in navigating state government.
The task force recommends the review of several rules and regulations by the state Environmental Improvement Board and the Mining and Oil Conservation commissions.
Among the priorities are the so-called pit rules governing oil and natural gas producers, tougher rules on dairy operations, streamlining of the environmental permitting process and the state’s new greenhouse gas regulations.
The report also outlines recommendations for rolling back building codes to international standards, revising state labor laws and making changes in child-care regulations to encourage affordability and access.
Frederick said he’s concerned the governor is hearing only from specific economic interests and that policies developed as a result could have negative impacts for the state as a whole.
Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, said the panel’s recommendations are a starting point for creating policies that strengthen the private sector. The challenge for Martinez and state lawmakers will be finding “the sweet spot,” she said.