“The Governor and I want to create more, good paying jobs and economic opportunities here in Montana. We don’t want to export our kids and grandkids because they don’t have enough economic or business opportunities.”

Governor Kristen Juras
Kristen Juras

Lieutenant Governor, State of Montana

An Insider’s Guide to Regulatory Reform

Montana Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras shares how she and Governor Greg Gianforte kick-started their state-wide Red Tape Relief initiative.

Matthew Moloney July 25, 2022

Regulatory reform has a long, complex history. Tension has always existed between the role of the legislature to establish policy through the adoption of legislation and the authority of federal and state agencies to implement this legislation. The adoption of the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in 1946 clarified that federal agencies may only issue regulations within the authority granted to them by the legislature and established a rulemaking process requiring public notice and comment. States followed with the passage of similar administrative procedure acts.

Over the years state and federal agencies have increasingly created regulations, without implementing a systematic review of identifying and eliminating outdated, unnecessary, inefficient or burdensome rules. Many agencies have stretched or exceeded their rulemaking authority. Today, it is widely acknowledged that overregulation has negatively impacted economic development, innovation and business development. This has driven many state agencies to take a long, hard look at how they can ease some of the burden regulations have on the everyday person.

For Montana Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras, the path to regulatory reform began by identifying Montanans in need—and started well before she was elected into office in 2020.

Governor Kristen Juras

I’m a fourth generation Montanan. I was born and raised on my family’s ranch in central, rural Montana.

Governor Kristen Juras
Kristen Juras
Lieutenant Governor, State of Montana
MT Ranch Regulatory Reform Blog

Lieutenant Governor Juras decided to become a lawyer with the goal of helping farmers, ranchers, agricultural producers and other business owners navigate a number of legal issues—especially on the regulatory framework side of things.

She spent nearly 40 years becoming all-too-familiar with Montana’s regulations and how frustrating it can be for businesses to comply.

“Everyone I’ve worked with wants to be in compliance, but they’re often unaware of regulatory requirements. There has been a growing sense of frustration because the goal posts seem to keep moving.”

When Governor Greg Gianforte contacted Juras in 2020 to run alongside him, she got to “yes” very quickly—which would be a recurring theme for their administration.

Governor Gianforte, like Juras, wanted to provide a better regulatory framework for businesses to operate in. The goal was to make it easier to understand, more predictable and get businesses to “yes” quicker.

MT Gov & Lt Gov Regulatory Reform Blog

“The Governor and I want to create more, good paying jobs and economic opportunities here in Montana. We don’t want to export our kids and grandkids because they don’t have enough economic or business opportunities.”

In this article, Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras shares the steps she and Governor Greg Gianforte took to tackle this issue head on.

Identify what success looks like for the Red-Tape Relief initiative

Governor Gianforte and Lieutenant Governor Juras identified some key goals early on:

  • Reduce unnecessary regulations
  • Look for regulations that disproportionately impact small businesses, farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers
  • Study how other states were tackling regulatory reform
  • Understand that this will always be a work in progress
  • Take action and stay involved

Their first action was to issue an Executive Order establishing the Red-Tape Relief Advisory Taskforce. The Taskforce was chaired by Lieutenant Governor Juras and representatives from the 13 state agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction.

According to the Executive Order, the purpose of the Taskforce is to “advise the Governor with respect to a plan for a comprehensive review and reform of regulations in every state agency.”

“We were rolling out state-wide regulatory reform in the midst of our biennial legislative session. I knew our office would need to create a template with time frames and key milestones to help get this started.”

Get involved early and often to promote collaboration

Each of the 13 state agencies identified their own regulatory reform team. The teams, alongside Lieutenant Governor Juras, met regularly as they developed their regulatory reform strategies. The agency teams also collaborated with each other and shared processes and implementation ideas, while retaining the authority to individualize a program that worked for their agency.

“We understood that this needs to work for each individual agency. They all have different stakeholders with different priorities. They needed the flexibility to conduct their regulatory reviews in the best way possible.”

Juras recognized that on top of regulatory reform efforts, each agency has on-going rulemaking responsibilities. She sought—and received—a commitment from each agency director to make regulatory reform a priority, and worked to provide the necessary resources and support for the agencies. She emphasized the importance of engaging every agency employee in the process. And she carved time out of her busy schedule to stay in touch and hold them accountable.

Governor Kristen Juras

This is a marathon, not a sprint. This will take alignment across the Governor’s Office and all state agencies to implement. But, once completed, we will set up a long-lasting framework for the betterment of Montanans.

Governor Kristen Juras
Kristen Juras
Lieutenant Governor, State of Montana

Anticipate pushback and stumbling blocks

“Change is hard. Identifying where you made mistakes is not necessarily an easy thing to do, especially with bandwidth constraints. I was aware there would be some resistance.”

The Governor’s Office anticipated pushback from agencies. This is where getting involved early and often comes into play.

Juras was able to give the agencies metrics on how to identify rules in need of reform. She guided them to look at areas where delays were excessive in getting an answer on a permit and to ask themselves, “Why is this taking so long?” and “Where are we error prone?” If there is something wrong in the process, this is where regulatory reform can ease that burden and get business owners and entrepreneurs to “yes” much quicker.

Robust Tools for Policymakers

Manage the end-to-end policymaking process

The Governor’s Office and agencies worked together to define what they meant by “burdensome regulations” and “regulations with disproportionate impact” which helped set a clear benchmark. For some agencies, regulations older than 10 years should be looked at. But, for other agencies, anything older than four years needs to be identified.

“I made it very clear that this is a partnership, not a mandate. Everyone bought in because, ultimately, we want to improve what we do for the great people of the State of Montana.”

Leverage technology vendors as strategic partners for regulatory reform

At the start of this initiative, no agency was able to immediately provide the Governor’s Office with an accurate count of the regulations they had issued. They also lacked the data necessary to establish benchmarks—something Lieutenant Governor Juras thought should be automated.

This led to Juras meeting, and ultimately partnering, with Esper. Esper had previously helped other states tackle similar initiatives with their end-to-end policymaking platform.

“Esper helped me standardize a workflow, we did not have that prior to Esper. They have been instrumental in this work.”

Esper’s platform has state and federal regulations built in, allowing agencies to quickly research existing regulations, compare rulemakings to other states and flag outdated regulations from one source of truth. In addition, agencies can draft all of their rulemakings with a collaborative policymaking tool housed in Esper’s platform.

Juras’ goal is for Montana agencies to draft regulations in a simpler, easier to understand and easier to comply with manner.

“The average reading level on our regulations is 20th grade, which is excessively high. Our Montana business owners or farmers should not need a lawyer to decipher regulations.”

The path to regulatory reform—and a more business friendly environment—isn’t necessarily fewer regulations, but the quality of existing regulations.

“It’s easy to use quantity as a metric for regulatory reform. But, I’m more interested in the quality. I want our regulations to be user friendly.”

Building Posts Regulatory Reform

With Esper, Montana’s agencies are able to:

  • Inventory and identify all regulations
  • Flag regulations that are candidates for reform
  • Standardize rulemaking procedures
  • Track deadlines and key milestones
  • Collect and share internal feedback
  • Allow the Governor’s Office to review, greenlight or make suggestions on flagged regulations

Set up scalable processes for the future

Juras understands that administrations come and go. Her hope is that the agencies become the guardians of this initiative, which is why their early buy-in was so critical. The continued success of this project will be up to the rulemakers and agencies.

MT Capitol Regulatory Reform Blog

“My goal is that our agency employees shift to a culture of implementing quality regulations that are consistent, predictable, easy to understand and easy to follow.”

The objective is clear for Montana’s Red-Tape Relief Initiative: help the people of Montana. According to Governor Gianforte’s Montana Comeback Plan, “small business owners spend too much time and resources filling out paperwork and complying with burdensome regulations—time that could be spent with their family or building their business. Small businesses, though, don’t carry the burden alone. Consumers, particularly low- and middle-income individuals, bear the weight. Regulations raise consumer prices and make it more difficult for people, especially those struggling to make ends meet, to pay for goods and services.”

By setting up a scalable and state-wide process, Montana agencies will be able to prioritize the needs of the people in their future rulemakings.

“We are doing a better job and serving our citizens as well as we can. This is a win-win for all of us.”

To learn more about how Esper can help your agency tackle state-wide regulatory reform, feel free to schedule some time with one of our state government experts.

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