Montanans Finally Getting Red Tape Relief

Montanans Finally Getting Red Tape Relief

"After decades of a ‘government cures all’ philosophy, this is the first sign that the ship of state government is beginning to turn, and power is being returned to Montanans to control their own destiny."

When Gov. Greg Gianforte was first elected, one of his first actions was to create the Red Tape Relief Initiative, tasking agencies with conducting a top-to-bottom regulatory review to identify and repeal excessive, outdated and unnecessary regulations.

Just over 18 months later, the Governor’s initiative is already paying off in a big way, ushering in the most substantial regulatory relief Montanans have seen for years.

While some regulation is necessary to protect health, safety and the environment, the accumulation of thousands of regulations together acts as a dead weight on economic growth.

By 2020, Montana’s regulatory code had grown to over 4.7 million words and nearly 60,000 regulatory restrictions, as measured by words like “shall,” “must” and “required” in the state’s rulebook. It would take the average person nearly seven weeks to read every rule in Montana’s 2020 administrative code.

Thousands of restrictions and red tape impose real costs on Montana’s regional economic competitiveness. As of 2020, Montana had the second-most regulatory restrictions per capita among its regional neighbors, trailing only Wyoming and well ahead of Colorado, Idaho and Utah.

This bloated regulatory state has served as a massive anchor holding back Montana’s economic potential. Thanks to Gov. Gianforte’s Red Tape Relief Initiative, the tides are finally starting to turn in 2022.

Not only has the growth in regulations slowed, but new data shows that the trend is actually reversing. As of March 2022, Montana’s rules contained 59,427 restrictions compared to 59,821 in 2021, about a 1% decrease – the largest percentage decrease in at least 4 years. The total number of regulations is dropping too, from 14,955 in 2021 to 14,695.

After decades of a ‘government cures all’ philosophy, this is the first sign that the ship of state government is beginning to turn, and power is being returned to Montanans to control their own destiny.

In nearly every bi-weekly rule notice this year, Montana state agencies have been getting busy slashing unneeded red tape.

In a May 2022 rule notice, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry proposed repealing 27 rules in an effort to simplify, shorten, and clarify the administrative rules around nursing. Another MTDLI rule notice from June proposed repealing 29 separate rules. In February, the Department of Administration erased 16 rules to streamline regulatory processes.

The Red Tape Relief Initiative isn’t just reducing the size and scope of government, it’s helping Montanans succeed. One of the most impactful reforms of the year came from a revision to regulations governing apprentice programs. Six months after slashing red tape for employers who sponsor apprentices, more apprenticeships were added in the first six months of 2022 than in 2018, 2019, and 2020 combined.

Even more red tape relief is on the way. Numerous rules changes are still going through the process of being implemented. Many of the rules identified for repeal or revision will require legislative changes before being realized, meaning the 2023 legislative session will also likely result in further red tape relief.

After decades of harmful growth in red tape, Montanans are finally starting to see substantial regulatory relief. By holding regulators accountable and reducing the burden of government, Gov. Gianforte’s Red Tape Relief Initiative will help to unleash Montana’s economic growth for years to come.

This column originally appeared in Lee Newspapers

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