COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, on the campaign trail recently, sang the praises of the regulatory task force she created last year, saying it issued more than 3,000 recommendations on how to cut bureaucratic red tape — and that the recommendations were "dealt" with.
Actually, the task force's report last November listed less than 50 recommendations — many of which have not been implemented — and said 3,100 regulations exist across 22 state agencies.
"Over 3,000 recommendations were made to where we saw South Carolina needed to improve," Haley said July 1. "Everything that came from that recommendation list has been dealt with, whether it's gone through and those agencies have changed it, or whether we've put legislation in place."
Her statement came during a speech in which she accepted the endorsement of a group representing small businesses. Haley's re-election campaign is centered on a pro-business message.
When asked for a list of how each recommendation had been implemented, her office clarified that staff worked on each suggestion, whatever the outcome.
"The governor gave the Regulatory Review Task Force a mission: make state government run more efficiently and save our businesses money by saving them time — and after reviewing and making recommendations for reform on some of our most burdensome regulations, that's exactly what has happened," her spokesman, Doug Mayer, said in a statement late Monday.
According to Haley's office, her staff met in December and January with agency officials and legislators to go over the task force's recommendations and issue her own list of requests.
Haley's Cabinet agencies carried out 23 policy changes, many of which were already in the works, such as improving websites and allowing more online filings.
She suggested 25 regulatory changes. Of those, seven were adopted, four were opposed and 14 are still under review. Those rejected included one to repeal the requirement that barbers have a chest X-ray as part of the licensing process.
"The recent outbreak of tuberculosis in upstate South Carolina underscores the importance of retaining the required chest x-ray or tuberculosis test prior to licensure," Paul Robinson, chairman of the state Board of Barber Examiners wrote in a Jan. 23 letter to Haley. "This requirement assists in preventing the spread of disease."
Of Haley's 12 suggested changes to state law, lawmakers proposed bills dealing with half of them. Those that went nowhere included bills eliminating the required registration of hair-braiders and lowering the minimum education level for massage licenses to 10th grade. The one Haley signed into law in May simplifies the approval and inspection of modular homes.
Mark Lutz, who led Haley's task force, said each regulation is significant to a particular industry, even if it may not seem so to those outside it. He said he was "blown over" by the quick action on the group's recommendations.
"There's always a worry when you do a task force that nothing happens, and a report sits on a shelf," he said.
Lutz, of Mount Pleasant, is also vice-chairman of the Department of Health and Environmental Control board, whose members are appointed by Haley. Her executive order creating the task force coincided with DHEC's five-year review of its regulations. Eight of Haley's suggestions that are still under consideration are part of that agency's broader review, he said.
The cumbersome process for changing any regulation involves public hearings on drafted proposals, he said. He gave no timeline for an end.
"I frankly hope it never ends," he said. "I won't live long enough for the agency to go through every single regulation."
Haley has previously made dubious statements concerning jobs.
The AP has questioned her celebratory statements over job announcements since she took office, twice finding her number was overstated and easily misinterpreted, as thousands of the jobs won't arrive for years and some may fall through.
In September 2011, Haley acknowledged she couldn't back up claims that half of the people wanting work at the Savannah River Site failed drug tests. She had repeatedly made the assertion as she advocated linking drug tests to unemployment benefits. The actual number was less than 1 percent. Haley told The Associated Press then she'd learned a lesson and would be more careful in repeating what she heard.