BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick on Monday described a significant overhaul of regulations that impact small businesses across the state, including legislation he plans to file to streamline or eliminate several licensing boards to make doing business simpler for owners and professionals.
Patrick announced his administration would eliminate or change 286 state regulations as part of its ongoing review of the bureaucracy in state government that the governor launched last March. Those changes include a standardization of the permitting and fee process for police escorts of oversized loads on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
While some of the changes can be made administratively, Patrick said he will also propose legislation to consolidate, eliminate or change some of the 31 boards under the Division of Professional Licensure, removing what he described as obstacles and impediments to small business owners maximizing their opportunities.
Patrick used the example of his own barber in Boston to highlight the problem, explaining that the barber is looking to open a second shop with three barber chairs, but has encountered a maze of red tape despite having already secured a lease and space in the Longwood Medical area.
“This work of modernizing our rules will remove unnecessary barriers for starting a small business, make state government more efficient, and better align our practices with widely accepted national models. As important as modernizing the rules is modernizing the culture of state government,” Patrick said.
Through August, the administration has reviewed 446 sets of regulations out of an estimated 2,000 on the books, proposing changes to 286 regulations, or 64 percent of those that have been reviewed and 14 percent of the total. Since August, officials said hundred more regulations have been reviewed and will be included in the next package of reforms.
“This is a culture shift, a work in progress. But we’ve seen that it works and we’re sticking with it,” Patrick said.
Asked whether the full review would be done before he leaves office two years from now, Patrick said, “Better be.”
The legislation the governor plans to filed will consolidate the boards of registration of barbers and electrologists into a new Board of Registration of Cosmetology and Barbering, eliminate the Board of Registration of Radio and Television Technicians, and put a cap “at reasonable levels” on workforce reentry fees for licensed specialists like message therapists.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation also plans to make it easier to access MassDOT property for curb cuts or other construction access by standardizing the evaluation process for requests, and the Department of Revenue will streamline its process for granting tax return extensions to make the tax process easier for an estimated 71,388 small businesses.
Patrick was joined at the press conference by Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki, agency commissioners and business leaders, including Jon Hurst of the Massachusetts Retailers Association and Peter Forman, president of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce.
Forman, a former Republican House member, said he first proposed eliminating the Board of Registration of Barbers in the early 1980s as a budget amendment, and credited Patrick with helping him 30 years later to pass his first and only budget amendment.
“We are making it easier to do business in Massachusetts without undercutting any of the fundamental value, whether it’s consumer protection, environmental protection or otherwise that make this state a great place to live and work,” Bialecki said.
The Department of Environmental Protection is finalizing 21 regulatory reforms that Commissioner Ken Kimmell said will help the agency better deal with budget cuts that have led to diminished staff, avoid duplication and incentivize environmental improvement projects.
The DEP will stop issuing licenses for small docks and piers along the coast and on ponds and lakes that consume a lot of time for regulators, but pose little environmental threat. Instead, the DEP will propose general standards for building piers and docks.
Developers will also no longer have to seek permits to hook up to a local sewer system from both the state and the local licensing board, and the DEP will focus instead on the overall health of the sewer system, Kimmell said.
Finally, the DEP will standardize the permitting process for removing dams, piloting new technologies and “daylighting” streams by removing culverts or other obstructions to encourage projects generally seen to have benefits to local environments.