By Jonathan Alexander
ALBANY - An executive order signed by Gov. David Paterson Friday has environmental and labor groups fretting, but has gaining substantial support from those backing economic development.
Paterson's mandate is expected to initiate sweeping reform across the 110 state agencies by stripping power from regulatory boards and commissioners, and handing it over to five hand-picked insiders of Paterson's administration -with an eye on economic development.
The order requires a review of each regulatory agency ,within the sprawling state government bureaucracy, by the newly formed Regulatory Review Reform Committee.
The order states that the committee will conduct a review of regulations and paperwork for each state agency and that those procedures that are deemed outdated, unbalanced, unwise or unduly burdensome to business development will be eliminated.
In response, environment, labor and consumer advocacy organizations across the state have called emergency meetings to discuss the potential consequences of the order and the best methods of combating the fallout.
Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter representative Roger Downs said Tuesday the Sierra Club is "absolutely opposed" to the order.
Downs said that the regulations currently in place are meant to preserve and improve public health and well-being - and the order will do no good in the long term.
"We have a structure in place to review regulations and this is just a gift to business," he said.
Downs said he is worried that regulations which mandate reduced greenhouse gas emissions and labor-friendly employment practices may be at risk.
Meanwhile, the new measure has prompted several government watchdog organizations to question how open such a close-knit review committee will be.
But governor's office spokesman Morgan Hook said Tuesday that such concerns are unfounded. He said Paterson supports many regulations and environmental groups have nothing to worry about.
"There are regulations that are necessary and are there for a reason," he said. "Those regulations aren't going anywhere."
The regulatory review committee is composed of five senior members of Paterson's cabinet. His secretary Lawrence Schwartz, who regularly refers to himself the governor's enforcer, will chair it.
The first round of the committees review process will delve into the inner functions of the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health, the Department of State, the Department of Taxation & Finance and the State Liquor Authority.
Hook said New York State has a stigma that has been driving businesses away for years, and this measure is the Governor's attempt to change that.
"We're hoping to make changes to the more outdated and burdensome regulations that have no place in a 21st century economy," he said.