Regulations waiver proposed for Department of Consumer Affairs, other state entities

TRENTON – An alternate path to deal with regulations considered burdensome by the Department of Consumer Affairs will soon go into effect, yet another move by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration to create a business-friendly environment in New Jersey.

The proposed rule change is based on one of the first acts of Christie when he took office in 2010, Executive Order No. 2: “Common Sense Principles concerning regulatory burdens.” This red-tape slashing initiative urges the government and its various agencies to “take action to cultivate an approach to regulations that values performance-based outcomes and compliance, over the punitive imposition of penalties for technical violations that do not result in negative impacts to the public health, safety or environment.”

The new rule authorizes the Division of Consumer Affairs and all of its boards, committees and units and the Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission to waive specific regulatory requirements for undue hardship, economic or otherwise. Among the agencies affected are the Bureau of Securities, the Charities Registration Unit, and the Office of Weights and Measures.

Even if no waiver is sought, the new rule authorizes the Division and the Commission to waive regulatory requirements “if the consequence of strict compliance with the rules, or parts of the rules, in a particular instance, would lead to a burdensome, unfair or incongruous result or would endanger the health, safety and welfare of the general public.”

One of the goals, according to the state, is to create “an attractive venue for individuals and entities doing, or seeking to do, business in the state.”

In the avoidance of penalties, the waiver process sets up a discretionary resolution process that would sidestep enforcement proceedings.

Among the considerations given by the board to alleged violators is whether there was a “good faith effort” to comply; whether there was any impact on products or services, or on public health, safety and welfare; whether this was a first offense, an isolated incident, or merely a paperwork mistake; and the severity of the alleged violation. The new regulation also lays out methods to encourage compliance, including a private letter of admonition; making a penalty delay contingent on future compliance; conditional agreement for necessary professional treatment – medical, psychological, otherwise – or a skills test; corrective training or instruction; or contribution to the consumer fraud education fund.