State Senate Democrats have introduced legislation ordering every state agency to:

(a) Review all regulations adopted by or applying to
the agency,

(b) Identify any regulations that are duplicative,
overlapping, inconsistent, or out of date, and

(c) Amend or repeal regulations to eliminate
duplication or inconsistencies.

About time, right?

Given the depth of California’s economic slump and
urgency to improve our competitiveness, we can hope that this effort might lead
to a serious overhaul of existing regulations. But based on past experience, it
will take much more than passing a bill to accomplish this objective.

Two prior governors have tried it, with approximately
negligible success.

In 1997, Governor Wilson issued Executive Order W-144-97, which required (in
section 2) a sunset review of all regulations on a regular schedule using a
variety of criteria to decide whether or not to keep or change the regulation.

Six years later, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive
Order S-2-03
, which required, among other things, a more limited but
focused review of regulations adopted since 1999.

The missing
ingredient in the previous efforts was follow-up and oversight, which don’t
seem to be part of the present proposal, either. Indeed, the Legislature could
accomplish much of this right away, without passing a bill, by holding
agencies’ feet to the fire in budget committee hearings or in other oversight
venues. That would get the attention of department directors and regulators
faster and surer than legislation that is well-intended but lacks penalty or