When we talk about “overregulation” in Washington—which is a real problem—we need to step back and look at the big picture.
In Washington, the “law” means the State Constitution and the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). Changes or additions to these documents must be approved by the people and/or the state legislature and the Governor. Washington courts can raise questions about the law—and even reject sections of it—but can’t write state law.
Only the legislature and the Governor, with the support of the people, can write state law.
Underneath state law, there are various types of lesser state rules, recommendations, guidelines and executive orders. These are all inferior to state law. Some may have “the power of law” or be treated by courts as an extension of the law. But they are NOT state law.
The main document containing these lesser rules is the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). The WAC is the handbook that state agencies follow for implementing their duties, described in state law. The WAC is written by agency bureaucrats, for agency bureaucrats. No legislator ever votes for sections of the WAC, no Governor ever signs them. The people never vote on the WAC.
It’s the WAC that causes nearly all of the problems that we think of as “overregulation” in this state.
A lot of the problems caused by the WAC involve how state agencies issue various types of permits. Some permits to individuals, some permits to businesses. Some building permits, some operating permits. The permitting process in Washington state needs to be simplified, streamlined and made more rational. We want to maintain a clean and safe environment. However, agencies have written so many sections of WAC related to issuing permits that the process has become nonsensical. It needs to be reformed.
As Governor, one of my first priorities will be reform the permitting processes in Washington state. Get rid of the needless duplication and delays, restore common sense to the relevant sections of the WAC.
We also need to reform the way WAC sections are written. Right now, too many state agencies have what they call “rulemaking authority” to write new sections of the WAC with no legislative oversight. Some of this rulemaking authority is allowed in the RCW—by law—but some has been granted by executive order…or by agencies themselves, just claiming it under little or no legal authority. That will end.
As Governor, I will also seek broader reforms to how the WAC is written and maintained. I will limit state agencies’ “rulemaking authority” to a few, clearly defined situations. And I will support so-called “sunset clauses” that put expiration dates on WAC sections. Right now, WAC sections NEVER expire—so the document is constantly growing, like some kind of alien life form! ALL sections of the WAC should expire within two years, unless the legislature exercises its proper constitutional oversight and votes to allow certain sections to last longer or be permanent.