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Examining four regulations on Kansas’s books

county budget regulations

Reforming regulations is something easy to talk about on a macro level: most people would agree that removing obsolete, obtuse, or obstructive rules should be a goal of government. However, the conversation often ends with questions like “So where do we start?” Regulatory reform shouldn’t be a slash-and-burn across Kansas’s thousands of regulations. It may be cathartic to talk like that and it certainly sounds good on the stump. But any realistic effort of regulatory reform will be a methodical approach to consistently review, question, revise, or even revoke so much of the Kansas code.

Kansas’s Dental Board

For instance, take a look at some of the regulations for Kansas’s Dental Board. Since 2019, mobile dentistry centers have increased in number across the country and play an increasingly important role in providing care to rural or underserved areas. However, the registration cost for one of these facilities in Kansas is $500 with a $350 renewal fee. That’s a sizable, real cost: why $500? Why the similarly high renewal cost? A regular dentist’s license costs $287.

Under Kansas law, dental hygienists can only administer local anesthesia—think some numbing gel before cavity work–under the direct supervision of a dentist. This limits the ability of a hygienist to use their training and stretches dentists themselves even further. Over the summer, South Dakota’s Dentistry Board approved changes that allowed for lessened supervision so that hygienists could perform deep cleanings and engage more through work like tele-dentistry.

Regulatory reform would be agency heads – perhaps with the guidance of an executive body like Virginia’s Office of Regulatory Management – would launch similar questions to the above.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s composting laws exhibit another issue: nonspecific qualifications. For instance, a composting site “shall be capable of supporting all equipment used” and must either have a roof or “be designed the provide the same level of protection from the weather.” What determines if a compost site is capable of supporting its needs – is this an arbitrary decision that an inspector or other government official makes on a visit? Compared to the specificity of the floor requirements found in the same section, the unspecific regulation here could be hard to enforce or prepare for.

Kansas Department of Labor

Under the Department of Labor, 14 and 15-year-olds are allowed to cook and bake at “soda fountains, lunch counters, snack bars, or cafeteria serving counters,” but prohibited from doing this elsewhere. The 2010 Fair Labor Standards Act has a similar provision, except explicitly spells out they can only be involved with electric or gas grills without an open flame or deep fat fryers. They’re not even allowed to weigh or mix ingredients or lay things out on trays even if it’s well away from things like an oven or grill. This regulation itself is unlikely to change in Kansas due to the federal overlap, but it’s an example of where a conversation can start: why are minors allowed to do some cooking but not other types? What is the cost of enforcing this? What would happen if these regulations were changed?

The regulations and issues I’ve described here were found from just a cursory look at the thousands of Kansas Administrative Regulations active today. But that’s what the process has to be. Regulatory review isn’t a matter of cutting and slashing wide swathes of the code, but constantly combing through what’s there, having conversations like “Why is this number significant?” or “Is this rule needed?”, then adjusting the law as needed.

Entrepreneurs shouldn’t have to wait for regulatory relief though. Regulatory sandboxes are but one tool in which businesses can have certain regulations waived, all under the supervision of the government still. In the UK, businesses in their sandbox acquired 15% more private capital after joining than firms that did not, with the probability of raising capital increasing by 50%. Sandboxes help relieve some of the burden on businesses from regulations – and even give guidance to government on what regulations the economy can function without – but long-term reform is the means to an end.