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REPLACE REGULATIONS WITH COMMON SENSE

The overworked, seen-it-all detective senses that the sleazeball bar owner is covering up valuable information. The detective shoves his revolver in the man's face. "Start talking or I'll haul you in and sweat it out of you," the detective growls.

That's all it took in those old black and white movies for the barkeep to spill his guts.Hollywood doesn't do it that way now. It's not believable. So cops and robbers flicks have been updated.

Today the same overworked, seen-it-all detective senses that the same sleazeball bar owner is covering up valuable information. The detective leans across the bar, locks eyes with the creep and says: "You're lying. Tell me what happened or tomorrow morning this dump'll be crawling with city, state and federal regulators. They'll check every square inch of this rat hole." The barkeep spills his guts.

Now that's believable.

Everyone in America knows that it is impossible to abide by all the government regulations that are churned out so fast that even the regulators can't keep track of their own rules and regulations. The smartest person on earth is not capable of knowing, much less understanding, all the regulations that govern Americans.

In the blink of an eye, the most dedicated, law-abiding citizen in America can become inescapably entrapped in a regulatory web. And just as the moth cannot reason with the spider, neither can Americans reason with regulators.

In 1986, the Federal Register published 44,814 pages of regulations. In 1994, it published 64,914 pages of regulations. Those are merely federal regulations. Every level of government produces ceaseless streams of rules and regulations to justify expanding budgets.

On the federal level, taxpayers pay the salaries, job benefits and retirement plans for 130,000 bureaucrats whose duties are to devise and enforce rules and regulations, according to U.S. News & World Report. It will cost Americans an estimated $607 billion to comply with these regulations this year. Once again, that's just federal regulations.

For expressed good reasons, lawmakers pass bills to create regulatory oversight of some aspect of American life. But then the bureaucrats take over.

Except where specifically forbidden by law, the bureaucrats then write rules and regulations based upon their interpretations of their legislative mandate. These rules and regulations, written by unelected bureaucrats, have the effect of law. Worse, the rules are not static. They grow and change.

A regulatory agency can quickly become unrecognizable to the lawmakers who sponsored the original legislation. The Environmental Protection Agency is a classic example.

While Congress debates the proper reform process, Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles and his agency heads are trailblazing an example of regulatory reform for the entire nation.

Earlier this month, Chiles hefted aloft 50 pounds of state regulations that his agencies are scrapping immediately. And that was only about 3,500 state rules and regulations.

Chiles has announced plans to dump at least half of the state's 28,750 rules and regulations before the 1996 legislative session ends. Thousands of rules can be cut by executive order. Others require legislative approval. Only rules related to public safety and health will be spared.

One agency head, Florida Transportation Secretary Ben Watts, announced plans to replace ALL agency rules with goals and guidelines. Regulators will be given flexibility. Decisions will be made based on common sense.

If Watts follows through on his promise to replace rules with common sense, monuments should be erected to honor this great American. It should be a rule.