Guest Columns


Colorado’s rule-making bureaucracy needs more than a timeout


When John Hickenlooper was inaugurated as Governor in of Colorado, I was encouraged by the focused attention he gave to controlling the costs and intrusiveness of regulations on the businesses and people of Colorado. Despite our political differences in other areas, I thought we had a common understanding and common interest in reducing the heavy hand of government regulation.

Recently, the state Department of Human Services proposed new rules affecting privately operated day care centers. When I brought up my concerns with the proposed changes, I expected the governor to immediately see the problem and direct the bureaucrats to back off — or as the Denver Post editorial put it: take a “time out.” But to my surprise, that didn’t happen.

Does anyone seriously believe the people of Colorado want the state dictating to private day care centers how many crayons they keep, how many minutes of computer time they can give the children, what politically correct posters they can put on the wall, or the race of dolls which children are permitted to play with? Such proposed rules are an example of a rule-making apparatus that is out of control and an embarrassment to the state of Colorado.

Far too many families cannot afford day care for their preschool children. If the state ramps up their regulations with this 98-page set of rules, it will drive the cost of day care even higher. More to the point, it is not the state government’s job to manage these private businesses in such a detailed way.

Much to my surprise and chagrin, the governor has taken no public action to rein in this extreme overreach. Instead, he went in a totally different direction.

On Colorado Public Radio a few days ago, he defended the rule-making process and pointed out the department is trying to change day care centers into early childhood education centers. Excuse me? Is he saying that his Department of Human Services wants to completely overhaul the private day care system through more expansive regulations? His statement suggests that these laughable child care rules are not an unfortunate mistake but part of a wider plan. That is the exact opposite of what I heard him commit to in his state-of-the-state address to the legislature last January.

Unfortunately, this is not the only department in state government working to increase the regulatory burden on Colorado families and small businesses. The Health Department is preparing a new form for immunization exemptions. The current form consists of a few lines on a single page, which a parent simply signs (as the law prescribes). The new form is longer and goes way beyond the agency’s statutory authority. It requires a signature from a doctor (necessitating a visit to a doctor) and requires the parent to periodically renew the form four times for each child.

The governor needs to take charge of the state’s regulatory machinery and halt this attempted expansion of government control over the people of Colorado. We need more than a “regulatory review” by the Department of Regulatory Affairs. What Colorado needs is not a review but a rollback.

This is a much larger problem than one or two agencies wandering off the reservation. Each year since 2005, state agencies have issued an average of 16,300 pages of new regulations. A law enacted in 2003 to require a cost-benefit analysis of proposed rules has been largely ignored: less than 5 percent of the over 100,000 pages of new regulations issued since then were subjected to that requirement.

Governor Hickenlooper says he wants to “cut red tape” and rein in the cost of government regulations. That sounded good in January, but it’s time to move from speeches to executive leadership. It is disappointing to see that in the list of 24 initiatives within the six broad goals in the governor’s new “Bottom Up Blueprint” for the state’s economic recovery, there is not one mention of regulatory rollback for Colorado business or any regulatory reform initiative. While there is mention of rule-making review in the fine print, it is clearly not one of the priorities of the governor’s plan.

As long as the departments within his administration continue to increase their control over the people of Colorado, his claims to be a pro-business governor will ring hollow to the people and employers who must live under a bureaucracy that is quite obviously ignoring those speeches.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, Republican, represents SD 15 which includes Loveland, Berthoud, Estes Park, Red Feather Lakes, Wellington, and all of Larimer County outside of Fort Collins.