Regulatory enforcement and policy networks: A study of wetland permits in Florida
There are two opposing views on the conciliatory strategy of regulatory enforcement. Proponents argue that this cooperative-oriented strategy, which is accompanied with accommodative style and enhanced networks of regulatory officials, increases the efficiency of regulatory enforcement by providing an incentive for voluntary compliance. Critics argue that the conciliatory strategy is nothing but a convenient way to reduce economic burdens of regulated firms: a negotiation-oriented attitude may lead to decreasing stringency of regulation; and network ties also can be used by regulatees to give pressure on government officials to moderate regulatory requirements.
To examine whether the conciliatory strategy helps governments achieve desirable outcomes of regulatory policy, I analyze the Environmental Resource Permit records with questionnaire data obtained from permit consultants and socio-economic data of Florida counties. My data analysis reveals the mixed results for the conciliatory strategy. On the one hand, the conciliatory strategy has some positive impacts on wetland policy. There is evidence that professional networks increase the stringency of permit requirements. It is also found that the accommodative enforcement would encourage permit consultants to accept the permit process as the necessary government intervention. On the other hand, my analysis also provides evidence for the significant influence of business groups on permit decisions. As the housing market is further stimulated, developers are more likely to influence permit decisions for maximizing the benefits of the economic boom. Also, permit consultants, who are strongly associated with local policy groups, are not only required to provide less stringent requirements for the use of wetlands, but also spend fewer days to obtain permit approval than those weakly associated with local policy groups. This finding is consistent with the image of business groups in the “subgovernment” approach and the growth machine perspective. There are policy coalitions between local government officials and development interests in urban politics, and these coalitions influence the decision of permit officials.
In short, the conciliatory strategy is likely to enhance the efficiency of regulatory enforcement; however, it all depends to what extent the government can prevent the influence of business groups on the regulatory process. Therefore, further research is needed to find out how a cooperative approach to regulatory enforcement would not be captured by regulatees.
0617: Public administration