In an effort to improve the business climate in the State of New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie has created a permanent Red Tape Review Commission. This bi-partisan group is charged with identifying and eliminating burdensome red tape and other obstacles to help promote job creation, economic growth and investment throughout New Jersey. At the same time, they are also to make sure that their efforts to simplify and modernize regulations do not jeopardize public health and safety.
As part of this initiative, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has recently adopted a rule which allows companies to apply for waivers to specific regulatory requirements. This agency, also known as the DCA is responsible for professional and occupational licensing, consumer protection and fraud enforcement. In an article in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, titled “N.J. introduces waiver that critics say could erode consumer protection,” by Seth Augenstein on April 27, 2012, consumer safety advocates and other critics voiced their concerns about this new rule. They worry that these waivers could erode consumer protection provided by the Consumer Fraud Act. There is also concern that the waiver system would allow businesses to cut corners that could endanger public safety. Several organizations have joined together to file a lawsuit against this rule. However, Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said critics are being alarmist. “This will have no impact on those (consumer) protections,” Drewniak said, adding that the DCA has a great consumer protection track record. The DCA says that the waivers would only be granted in situations where the existing rules are “unfair, burdensome or incongruous.”
The DCA is the second state agency in New Jersey to adopt a waiver rule. The Department of Environmental Protection adopted its own waiver rule in March. This rule allows the EPA to relax strict compliance with rules in certain circumstances but without compromising protections for the environment or public health. Requests for waivers will be accepted beginning August 1, 2012 and will be granted on a case-by-case basis. This rule has also been the subject of much criticism and debate. Environmental groups and others critics worry that the waivers will weaken environmental protections and will affect health and quality of life issues. Several environmental and labor groups have joined forces in attempt to block the rule from taking effect this summer. However, the DEP promises transparency in the waiver process by posting all requests and decisions on their website. DEP Commissioner Bob Martin has stated that he will personally review waiver decisions and is mindful of the obligation to use waiver authority consistent with federal and state law.
Many of us can agree that there are some regulatory requirements that can leave you scratching your head in wonderment. Few can argue the need to reform obsolete, redundant or ineffectual regulations. Some of the rules from these two agencies can be burdensome and frustrating to businesses. But, at the same time, it is important that these new waiver rules do not end up hurting consumers or the environment. Hopefully, these waiver programs can remove unnecessary and burdensome bureaucracy while also upholding consumer and environmental protection.
If you would like to learn more about the New Jersey Red Tape Review Commission and when they are holding public meetings, visit their website. Visit the New Jersey Free Public Records Directory to access a number of public records and resources for the State of New Jersey, such as consumer alerts from the Division of Consumer Affairs, legislative bills, ordinances, professional and contractor licensing records, Attorney General legal opinions, public notices, and the New Jersey State Constitution. You can also access links to several databases from The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, including Brownfield development areas, childcare center facility site investigations, enforcement actions, deeds of environmental restrictions, incident complaints, hazardous waste manifest data, superfund sites, and other environmental protection records.