Regulatory Reform Initiative: Overview

Nearly half of all employed people in Massachusetts are working in small businesses, and these small businesses represent the best opportunities for economic growth and prosperity in the Commonwealth. To ensure that state government is creating the conditions for small businesses to thrive, the state has implemented the most significant and impactful regulatory reform initiative in Massachusetts history. The initiative has four parts aimed at reducing small business impacts of new regulations, reviewing and reevaluating the continued need for “old” regulations, increasing awareness of state government regulators, and maintaining open lines of communications with the business community on the topic of regulation.

Since a law was passed in 2010, all agencies proposing new regulations in Massachusetts must prepare and publicly release a small business impact statement that analyzes the potential impact that regulation will have on small businesses in the Commonwealth. To implement this law in a uniform and thoughtful way across agencies, a uniform template was developed for state agencies to report impacts in a consistently and comprehensive fashion. When regulations are proposed today, a statement of small business impacts is filed with that draft regulation and published online by the Secretary of State’s Regulations Division. The intent is to provide the utmost transparency during the regulatory process, and to bring the potential small business impacts into the forefront of the public debate.

The legislature passed another law in 2010 requiring all state agencies to review existing regulations to reconsider their need and reassess their impact on small businesses.  Agencies have been working to fulfill this obligation, with a particular eye toward reducing impacts on small businesses, while also streamlining and improving transparency of processes, and identifying opportunities for improved government efficiencies. Since October 2011, more than 200 existing regulations have been reviewed across nearly 60 agencies, resulting in 150 recommendations for rescission or modifications. Of the recommended regulatory improvements, 25 of the amendments will seek to align Massachusetts with a national model or standard that is utilized by other states.

Agencies will continue to pursue an aggressive schedule of regulatory review with a goal of reviewing 1,000 regulations by the end of 2012.  Agencies will pursue regulatory amendments and rescissions following the public process set forth in state law until all of the reforms have been implemented. 

The Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development, has appointed a Regulatory Ombudsman to convene business leaders, chambers of commerce and trade associations to keep the lines of communication open on the topic of regulation. Through this mechanism, the Executive Office is seeking business input to shape the definition of regulatory reform success within Massachusetts, and to ensure that concerns of businesses are being considered.