Gov. Charlie Baker made a campaign promise to clean up the state's catalog of rules and regulations, and after more than 18 months in office, the slow of resetting the state rulebook continues.
Baker has compared overhauling the state's catalog of 1,700 regulations for businesses and nonprofits to cleaning out the basement - something you just need to do once in awhile.
One client of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, a cat named Pinto, may be particularly thankful for the rules change effort that may have saved his life.
To illustrate the impact of the sometimes monotonous regulations, Baker's team picked one of the flashier state regs on the books: a mandatory six-month quarantine for animals found with wounds of unknown origins.
The regulation was meant to prevent the spread of rabies, but new guidelines and best practises show that animals can become antisocial and even driven to self-harm when left isolated that long. For animal advocates at the Animal Rescue League, the six month period meant many animals could not be easily placed in adoptive homes.
One of the hundreds of regulations Baker has amended was to limit the mandatory quarantine for injured cats and dogs suspected of having with rabies from six months to four. The Rescue League praised Baker's change, saying they now answer only to one agency instead of two and they can find permanent homes for injured animals sooner.
One of those cats was Pinto, who League staff said began self-harming himself after a long period in isolation. With the rule change, shelters like the League can now place injured cats and dogs in permanent homes much faster.
"Certainly for these folks the fact that they’re now dealing with one agency instead of two, there’ll be savings for them, but the real objective here was less about savings and more about just trying to update this stuff consistent with modern standards, modern rules, modern technology, and all the rest," Baker said.
Baker began an exhaustive review of the state's entire catalog of regulations when he took office in 2015.
“The regulatory review program that we embarked on in March of 2015 was basically designed to kick the tires on about 1,700 regulations that exist in the Mass Code of Regulations.
Baker told reporters at the Animal Rescue League on Monday that the reform plan was "designed to kick the tires" on around 1,700 regulations in the state.
"Out of those 1,700 regulations we ended up rescinding about 275 of them. About 800 of them were amended... and about 630 of them pretty much were left as is.
The state held 131 listening sessions on regulations covering everything from environmental protections to the do-not-call-list to funeral home procedures, and received about 1,000 comments from organizations and individuals.
Baker said about 65 percent of the regulations cover the largest areas of government, health and human services, budget and contracting and energy and environmental protections.
Changes to the environmental regulations and other areas caused a stir among activists last year because Baker's executive order instructing department heads to review their regulations mandated that new version be no more onerous than federal guidelines. Massachusetts progressives are quite proud of some of the environmental, labor and financial protections they've put in place and aren't going to stand idly around if Baker's final set of regulations attempts to dismantle them.
The effort was the first review of all state regulations under the governor's office since Baker himself lead a similar effort for Gov. William Weld.