Now that we're almost through the winter, it's about time to begin spring cleaning. We will sweep out garages, clean closets, and give walls and floors a thorough scrubbing.
We've already been doing some of our own spring cleaning in state government. A few years ago I began an effort to scrub our laws and regulations by asking state agencies to identify provisions we can repeal.
In 1913, Gov. Robert S. Vessey said in his State of the State address, "It is my conviction, and in it I am not alone, that the tendency of very many legislative bodies is toward too many rather than too few new laws and I again offer the oft-repeated statement that there is a demand for the reduction and curtailment of the amount of legislation biennially passed by the Legislature and placed among our laws."
Gov. Vessey was right. It's the nature of government to add to the body of laws. When someone is running for office others tend to ask, "If elected, what will you do?" Elected officials sometimes take that to mean, "What law will you pass?" And we sometimes measure productivity by the number of bills that we pass.
But when it comes to laws, more isn't always better. We shouldn't place unnecessary hurdles before our citizens or entrepreneurs, and things shouldn't be overly complicated for people who are trying to know and obey laws.
With legislators' help, we've already gone a long way in removing unnecessary red tape in state government. During the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions, we repealed 378 unneeded rules and 919 obsolete sections of law, totaling more than 148,000 words. This legislative session, I've signed 21 repealer bills so far -- a few of which were brought by legislators themselves -- eliminating over 30,000 more words of unnecessary rules.
We've repealed outdated provisions dealing with a wide range of subjects, from petroleum products, to county prisoners, to the federal census, to traction engines, to the medical department of the National Guard, and more.
I hope we continue this new tradition of spring cleaning in state government. Our efforts to cut red tape may not be grabbing a lot of headlines, but they're important. Just as we must eliminate the clutter in our homes for the sake of our own health and wellbeing, we must eliminate the clutter in state government for the sake of the health and wellbeing of South Dakota.