NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Shortcomings and Solutions in Washington State Regulatory Agency Cooperation

October 2, 2015

According to the Washington State Auditor's Office, regulatory agencies within the state lack formal and consistent systems of inter-agency cooperation. The state auditor also noted the absence of a lead agency and a long-term approach to recognizing and prioritizing opportunities for regulatory agencies to work together in a focused and systematic manner. Consequently, regulatory decisions are more expensive and time-consuming than they could be.

To reach this conclusion, the state auditor examined well-publicized coordination efforts directed by statute or executive order, as well as three theoretical business projects that necessitated the approval of eleven regulatory agencies.  In each theoretical case, the state auditor compared how agencies collaborated with other local and state agencies according to four criteria:

  • The degree that multi-agency requirements are communicated.
  • The type of coordination framework that is or is not in place.
  • How regulatory activities are coordinated.
  • How coordination is measured.

While several regulatory agencies were found lacking, the state auditor noted that the Transportation Permit Efficiency and Accountability Committee, the Shellfish Interagency Permitting Team and the Seattle Restaurant Success Initiative demonstrated practices that other agencies should emulate. For example, they possessed written coordination policies and protocols, as well as structured communication channels between agencies.

Finally, the state auditor proposed solutions for the state legislature to implement. One solution includes creating long-term strategies for detecting and prioritizing multi-agency regulatory processes that can be streamlined through coordination according to criteria such as importance to the state and potential savings for businesses and agencies. Another involves creating a timetable for prioritizing regulatory processes to be streamlined through coordination. The state auditor also advises that annual reports be submitted to the governor and legislature detailing the progress of prioritized regulatory procedures to be streamlined via coordination, along with performance measures for each process.

Source:  "Regulatory Reform: Enhancing Regulatory Agency Reform," Washington State Auditor's Office, July 2015.

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