For decades Montana has been plagued by an enormous thicket of red tape, with the state’s regulatory code growing to over 4.7 million words and nearly 60,000 regulatory restrictions as of 2020. Thanks to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s Red Tape Relief Initiative, this regulatory thicket is finally starting to be trimmed back. Now with the legislative session on the horizon, Montanans can expect 2023 to bring massive red tape relief.
Unprecedented Red Tape Relief On The Way
"Whether repealing clearly absurd laws or amending dysfunctional rules, one thing is clear: Montanans can expect 2023 to bring some unprecedented red tape relief. That’s something to celebrate."
With clear orders from Gov. Gianforte in January 2021 to identify and repeal excessive, outdated and unnecessary regulations, Montana state agencies immediately got to work. As of March 2022, the initiative had already spearheaded repealing hundreds of regulations and reforming others to accomplish the largest percentage decrease in Montana’s regulatory burden in at least four years. However, many executive rule changes first require the Legislature to act, so agencies have moved to drafting legislation to enable even greater red tape relief during the 2023 legislative session.
Frontier Institute’s latest count identifies more than 80 bill drafts that have already been reserved by state agencies which advance the Red Tape Relief Initiative’s mandate. If passed, Montanans can expect these bills to enable repealing or reforming many hundreds more harmful regulations holding back our economy once they go into effect. Here’s a short run down of what some of these proposals entail:
At least 40 legislative bill drafts focus on removing or revising outdated regulations that are particularly irrelevant today. For example, The Department of Revenue is requesting that the Legislature repeal a law requiring the agency to post alternative office hours in the local newspapers two times per year, something that could best be suited today via the internet. Another example comes from the Department of Livestock, which has requested that the Legislature repeal outdated and unnecessary regulations that require the agency to create 3 paper copies of forms.
Eliminating excessive and unnecessary regulation
At least 32 proposals are aimed at repealing unnecessary regulations entirely. Take for example a law that has been on the books since 2007 which required producers selling huckleberry products to register the location of their huckleberry patch with the government — a laughable requirement for Montanans who work hard to find and keep secret their beloved huckleberry patches. The law has never been enforced and not a single picker has ever registered the location of their patch with the government.
Another clearly unnecessary law identified by state agencies as ripe for repeal has to do with banning beer from being advertised on a building adjacent to the licensed establishment — because after all it would be a shame if someone with a beer in hand looked out a window and saw an advertisement for their beer.
One of the largest proposals comes from the Department of Labor and Industry to completely overhaul the way the state handles occupational licensure. This huge bill will revise unnecessarily burdensome professional licensing regulations to eliminate conflicts of interest, improve efficiency and promote license mobility to get qualified workers licensed in Montana quicker. These types of reforms to occupational licensing could be a great boost to Montana’s skilled workforce.
Repealing harmful regulation of small business
More than a dozen agency proposals target laws that have an especially burdensome impact on small businesses. These proposals range from reducing paperwork requirements to clarifying regulations to protect the competitiveness of small businesses.
Whether repealing clearly absurd laws or amending dysfunctional rules, one thing is clear: Montanans can expect 2023 to bring some unprecedented red tape relief. That’s something to celebrate.