If regulations proved unnecessary during the COVID-19 pandemic, were they ever really necessary at all? That’s the thought behind a growing push to eliminate unnecessary and even harmful rules that were set aside during the last year.
“Across the country, state and local governments have temporarily eased hundreds of regulations during the pandemic, aiming to help consumers social distance and businesses avoid economic disaster,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Now, some want to abandon them for good.”
The WSJ cited Austin’s beloved El Arroyo restaurant, which pleaded during the shutdowns on its famous sign: “Now would be a good time to legalize drive-up margaritas.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott heeded the advice, doing just that a few days later; El Arroyo was soon able to rehire 40 employees.
Texas ranks high in overall economic freedom as a result of low taxes and favorable labor laws, yet it has among the highest number of restrictive regulations in the country.
At their core, regulations should only exist to serve a necessary function of civilized society as determined by legislation and limited by the state and U.S. constitutions, such as protecting the public from physical or economic harm.
For example, we regulate the practice of medicine to ensure those willing to practice are adequately trained and capable of delivering quality care. Similarly, those practicing law, engineering, architecture and such must demonstrate adequate training and ability to practice in their chosen field for the safety and health of others.
But such regulations should be narrowly drawn to achieve their intended purpose and should be frequently reviewed to ensure their existence is still necessary and does not unnecessarily encroach on economic freedoms.
Gov. Abbott’s waivers and suspensions during the pandemic provided for:
- Expanding the use of telemedicine and telehealth options.
- Allowing pharmacists to conduct telephonic consultations.
- Allowing graduate nurses and vocational nurses to practice while waiting to take license exams.
- Expanding the authorized practice of physicians in training.
- Authorizing certain retailers and restaurants to deliver alcohol to customers.
- Authorizing restaurants to sell bulk products to customers.
- Waiving temporary permit requirements for out-of-state licensed truckers.
Many of the suspended regulations can and should be permanently repealed. But the governor’s authority to issue the executive orders waiving these regulations stems from the emergency declaration due to COVID-19. Any permanent repeal requires legislative action.
That’s what state Rep. Matt Krause’s HB 2662 would provide. It would permanently waive certain regulations that were suspended during the pandemic. The bill has been referred to the State Affairs Committee. There are several other bills, as well, that would achieve the same purpose.
Texas remains a strong and vibrant state for business and individuals to thrive. Our job growth, tax burden and overall economic freedom are among the best in the nation, but far more can be done to reduce the regulatory burden on those individuals and businesses entering the marketplace. Texas values its freedom and liberty. These reforms can help keep it that way.