by Lowman S. Henry | September 27, 2022

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has many nicknames most notably the Keystone State and our tourism slogan for a while was State of Independence. We are known as the “cradle of liberty” which is perhaps most appropriate in that Penn’s Woods has become a nanny state.

Government bureaucrats and some lawmakers think they need to control every aspect of our lives from regulations on business to what trees and shrubs we can plant in our back yards. The urge to demonstrate intellectual and moral superiority via official government action is a powerful force.

Some of these actions border on frivolity, while others have serious consequences. Fox example, Japanese Barberry plants are a favorite of homeowners and landscapers. The crimson red leaves add color and interest; the plants are drought resistant and easy to maintain. They are also now illegal.

The folks at Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture have decreed that they crowd out other plants, and according to a news release are “thought to harbor black legged ticks.” Note use of the word “thought” since apparently the justification lacks scientific fact. So the good regulators at the Ag Department have ordered the end of Barberry sales and next year will “issue Stop Sales and destruction orders.”

They didn’t stop there also ordering the Pyrus calleryana tree to be banished from the kingdom. Most folks know the tree as Bradford Pear – I have several in my yard – a fast growing tree that features vivid white blooms in the spring. Regulators have deemed the tree “invasive” (mine have behaved themselves staying within their borders) and apparently some folks are offended by the smell of the blooms so – off with their head!

Speaking of being offended, one person – one person who lives in another state – complained about reenactments at the historic Bushy Run battlefield in Westmoreland County. In swooped the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission demanding the reenactment be cancelled. The Bushy Run Heritage Society which operates the park refused since many of the re-enactors were already on location. But, in an exercise of toxic regulatory control the commission has ordered the park to consult with “appropriate” Native American groups before hosting future reenactments.

Not to be outdone by the bureaucrats some lawmakers are also getting into the act. A bill has been introduced into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives making it illegal to release balloons. So if you are planning a wedding or other special event and wish to feature a balloon release you better do so quickly before you get arrested.

Now there may be a very good reason not to release balloons. Waterfowl and other critters can ingest the balloons when they fall back to Earth and suffer serious consequences. Fair enough. But, this is a case where educating the public, as with anti-littering campaigns, is a more prudent approach than wasting valuable legislative time and energy.

In each of these cases regulations have a superfluous rather than serious impact. Micro-regulation becomes far more concerning when it impacts the health and well-being of our commonwealth’s citizens, and inhibits economic growth.

During the COVID-19 pandemic a wide range of regulations relating to the delivery of health care were temporarily suspended. For example the scope of service provided by nurse practitioners was widened, tele-medicine regulations were relaxed. and more credentials from other states were accepted.

President Joe Biden has declared the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. So the question becomes: if relaxing or removing those regulations improved health care during a pandemic are they really necessary – in fact are they actually harmful? The time has come to make permanent those temporary changes.

On the economic front the House Policy Committee conducted a series of hearings over the summer about the cause of historic high inflation. Policy Committee Chairman Marty Causer (R-McKean/Cameron/Potter) told The Center Square: “we heard a lot about the role regulations are playing in driving up costs for job creators and consumers alike, and we recently reviewed a report with the Mercatus Center outlining how regulations increase the state’s poverty rate.”

The House GOP has made regulatory reform and elimination a major goal in an effort, says House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Center/Mifflin) to “successfully limit the size and scope of government.”  To that end various committees have called upon the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) asking for an expedited review of all regulations on the books for three or more years to determine if they remain in the public interest.

A certain level of regulation is necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of society and to protect the public. But, when regulations become frivolous and worse harmful, the time has come to reign in the regulators.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly American Radio Journal and Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected])

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