Do We Need All The Regulations We Have?

May 9, 2011
You may have heard about the State Health Departmentís intentions to start regulating sports like wiffle ball, freeze tag and capture the flag a couple weeks back. Some at the State Health Department considered these sports dangerous. The idea of wiffle ball being regulated made national news. Fortunately, a few vocal critics called this idea a bad one and, for at least now, have put a stop to this. In the face of a childhood obesity epidemic and sedentary lifestyles, our state was positioned to regulate outdoor kid games. This makes little sense.

The proposed childrenís games regulations made me think of other examples that cause our state to be called overregulated. Here are a few. Some already are policy and others have, unfortunately, been introduced to the Legislature as bills. Many of the bills mentioned below have been introduced by the majority, which means these bills are within the realm of possibility and have a greater likelihood of being placed on the Legislative calendar and put up for a vote.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. In the interest of space, I have kept the list short and picked examples that are easy to summarize in a sentence or two.

  • A bill was introduced recently that would prohibit restaurants in New York City from serving tap water to a patron unless they request it. Restaurants that violate this provision would be warned by the court the first time, fined up to $500 the second time and fined up to $1,000 for subsequent violations.
  • Another bill introduced would prohibit restaurants from using salt in any form in the preparation of food. This too would come with a penalty and allow a court to impose a $1,000 fine for every use of salt.
  • The sales tax situation in New York has been criticized by business owners for being too confusing and unfriendly to small businesses. Business owners are often fined for reasons they donít understand. A story out recently by the Times Union, an Albany paper, pointed out that a sliced bagel is taxed. A bagel purchased at the same store and placed into a bag is not taxed. Itís no wonder people are confused.
  • A recent study ranked New York among last place in organ donations. It appears unnecessary levels of bureaucracy have complicated what could be an easy process that states with less money and fewer resources have managed far better than us.
  • There is legislation that has been introduced that would prohibit doctors from wearing neckties in hospitals. Now Albany wants to tell doctors, who already are paying among the highest malpractice insurance rates in the nation, how to dress?
  • Earlier this session, one lawmaker wanted to make it so everyone who bought a bike, for personal or commercial use, would have to register that bike annually, go through an inspection and display a license.
  • Non-profit groups too are beleaguered by red tape. The Attorney Generalís office recently stated the system is so overwrought with regulations and rules that ďif a New York not-for-profit receives funding from six different city or state agencies, it can be subject to six separate audits and sets of reporting requirements.Ē Roughly 17 percent of our stateís workforce is employed by a non-profit. It is estimated they spend about 15 percent of their resources trying to comply with state regulations.

New Yorkers pay among the highest property taxes in owner-occupied homes in the nation. We ranked 49th in a study out last week by the Travelers Companies Inc., which surveyed a group of 600 businesses that said the regulations that create the most difficulty for their businesses are taxes and health insurance. I think itís high time we cut back on the regulations.

Iím sure you have encountered some examples of being overregulated. If youíd like to share your examples, Iíd be happy to read or hear about them. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also can friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.