Bringing NM regulation into the 21st century - Albuquerque Journal

Bringing NM regulation into the 21st century

Last week, in one of her last acts in office, Gov. Susana Martinez signed New Mexico executive order 2018-055. The order takes aim at those state rules written by un-elected regulators – state government boards, commissions and agencies – by requiring sound economic analysis before new rules affecting New Mexicans can take effect.

It’s a major, and much-needed, advancement for evidence-based policy in New Mexico.

Economic analysis for regulations may sound boring, but it’s actually a critical tool that helps ensure that your government’s decisions – which affect you, your employer, or your business – are wise ones. Analysis helps regulators bring together all the most pertinent information about a problem and its possible solutions to determine whether a particular rule is likely to do more good than harm for society.

As an example, economic analysis played an important role in the 1980s when the Reagan administration decided to phase out the lead content in gasoline. While we don’t remember President Reagan or his staff as big regulators, a well-crafted analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency helped convince them that, in this case, the benefits of a new rule outweighed the costs.

This decision has almost certainly led to some significant health improvements for Americans. For comparison, some European countries didn’t ban lead in gasoline until a decade or more later.

Economic analysis has a long and bipartisan history in the federal government. Although President Reagan is often credited with bringing regulatory analysis to Washington, Presidents Ford and Carter both issued their own executive orders requiring analysis for major federal regulations. The current order in place was put there by President Clinton. Since then, presidents of both parties have reaffirmed the importance of analysis in rulemaking.

In this sense, Gov. Martinez is following a well-established tradition. And it’s about time – New Mexico was beginning to fall behind.

A 2010 study from New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity graded the regulatory procedures in all 50 states. The authors gave New Mexico a D-, finding that the state “has none of the guiding principles” looked for in the evaluation, such as consistent rulemaking procedures across agencies or regulatory oversight from the Legislature or governor. At that time, New Mexico was one of only two states that had no economic analysis requirement in place for regulations, the other being Wyoming.

New Mexicans shouldn’t feel too bad, however, because analysis in other states is sometimes a “check-the-box” exercise. While there may be a requirement in place that is nominally being followed, in practice, no serious analysis happens. That’s largely because states under-invest in the talent required to do analysis in a serious way.

This doesn’t need to be the case in New Mexico. But in order to make Gov. Martinez’s order truly effective, Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham should make sure the right personnel are in place. That means hiring economists with a background in cost-benefit analysis.

My recent report from the Mercatus Center found that the New Mexico Administrative Code contains an astonishing 9.2 million words. Among those are more than 125,000 restrictive terms like “shall” or “must.” For comparison, neighbor Arizona has just 64,000 restrictions in its rulebook and Utah has 88,000. This may help explain why New Mexico’s economy grew by a meager 0.1 percent last year, compared to Utah’s 2.5 percent growth and Arizona’s impressive 3.1 percent growth rate.

Unfortunately, New Mexico’s thousands of regulations were put in place without the scrutiny of economic analysis. But that’s starting to change with Gov. Martinez’s actions last week. Her order represents a giant leap forward, bringing New Mexico regulation into the 21st Century. There remains work to be done, but more carefully thought-out policy is coming to the Land of Enchantment.

James Broughel is author of the new study “A Snapshot of New Mexico Regulation in 2018.”

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Bringing NM regulation into the 21st century


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Guns do kill people; NM needs smart reforms
From the newspaper
The Second Amendment states "A well-regulated ... The Second Amendment states "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a fr ...
2
COVID-19's 3 lessons learned in New Mexico
From the newspaper
Two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic ... Two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we all knew it. People all over the world were ...
3
NM must protect access to safe, legal abortion
From the newspaper
It comes as a shock to ... It comes as a shock to no one that abortion rights are under attack in America. In 1973, the Supreme ...
4
We shamefully abandoned science for political gain
From the newspaper
The coronavirus pandemic is an event ... The coronavirus pandemic is an event unlike any in living memory. A new pathogen swept the globe, ca ...
5
We shamefully abandoned science for political gain
From the newspaper
The coronavirus pandemic is an event ... The coronavirus pandemic is an event unlike any in living memory. A new pathogen swept the globe, ca ...
6
Stage set for the return of Summerfest
ABQnews Seeker
Summerfest and Freedom 4th are back. ... Summerfest and Freedom 4th are back. ...
7
Additional floors will allow for UNMH's future expansion
ABQnews Seeker
New tower will house updated surgical ... New tower will house updated surgical rooms
8
Officials: Teen who killed 10 in Buffalo had studied ...
From the newspaper
Gunman in racist attack made threats ... Gunman in racist attack made threats against school last year, authorities say
9
Zanetti leaning on military lessons in governor's race
ABQnews Seeker
NM should pursue both high-, low-tech ... NM should pursue both high-, low-tech solutions to economic challenges, says GOP hopeful