Multiple choice

The Joint Committee on Regulatory Reform, established by North Carolina legislators this year, is on the road. Its mission: Scrutinize “burdensome state rules and regulations on behalf of the private sector.” The 18-member team wants to hear from business and farm owners around the state concerning “outdated rules and regulations that should be eliminated.” The committee’s only visit to Western North Carolina occurred at Blue Ridge Community in Flat Rock on April 15.

Before the meeting, Julie Mayfield, director of the nonprofit Western North Carolina Alliance, expressed her concern that committee members may not balance business needs with environmental ones, noting that she hopes the committee will be hearing from more than owners of businesses and farms. (They did; for a report on the meeting, go to our NCmatters page at http://bit.ly/fBQIA3.) “Government intervention is still, in many cases, the only thing that makes business take the greater good into account,” Mayfield remarked.

The committee is charged with working “to create a strong environment for private sector job creation by lifting the undue burden imposed by outdated, unnecessary, and vague rules.” Mayfield worries that such a mandate may mean a “witch hunt” against environmental regulations, so she hopes the committee hears a strong message for caution in reviewing and repealing state regulations.

“I understand the concerns being expressed by many in the environmental community,” Republican committee member and Henderson County Rep. Chuck McGrady told Xpress. “At this point and time, it’s premature to judge what the outcome of the committee will be,” he cautioned.

So far, the committee has heard “a lot from homebuilders, a little from farmers,” McGrady said, with perhaps a third of the public-hearing comments “expressing support for what the environmental regulations have done cleaning up our air and water.” There have been a few comments from committee members, he acknowledged, that “would give one pause” concerning Mayfield’s expressed worries. “Again,” he stressed, “I believe it’s premature to judge.” Public hearings are not concluded, and the committee has not yet seen any of the comments that have been posted online, McGrady pointed out.

The committee consists of eight senators (none from WNC) and eight representatives (two from WNC: McGrady and Roger West, Republican from Cherokee/Clay/Graham/Macon counties). Eleven Republicans and seven Democrats were appointed to the committee. “I’m a real anomaly,” McGrady said with some humor regarding his position. The Hendersonville attorney and summer-camp director is a Republican and a former national president of the powerhouse environmental group the Sierra Club.

If you missed the April 15 session, visit the N.C. General Assembly website www.ncleg.net/regreform. Comments may also be made individually to members of the committee.

A second major hearing in WNC is just around the corner. The Redistricting Committee, in charge of the redistricting process for the State House, State Senate and U.S. Congressional districts this year, will hold a public hearing in Asheville on April 30. For more information, visit mountainx.com/special/ncmatters.

— Contributing editor Nelda Holder can be reached at nholder@gmail.com.

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