California is the most regulated state in the U.S., according to an analysis of state regulations conducted by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
The 2019 California Code of Regulations (CCR) has 395,129 restrictions and 21.2 million words. It would take roughly 1,176 hours, or more than 29 weeks, to read them all assuming a pace of reading 300 words a minute in a 40 hour-week, Mercatus says.
The CCR is in addition to the more than 1.09 million additional restrictions in the federal code, all of which individuals and businesses must understand and follow to remain compliant, the center adds.
“Nearly 104 million words and 1.09 million restrictions in the federal code significantly understate the true scope of regulation in the United States,” authors of the analysis write. “States like California write millions of additional words of regulation and hundreds of thousands of additional restrictions. State-level requirements carry the force of law to restrict individuals and businesses just as federal ones do.”
The Mercatus Center developed State RegData, a platform for analyzing and quantifying state regulatory text.
“It captures information in minutes that would take an ordinary person hours, weeks, or even years to obtain,” Mercatus explains.
Historically, there has been no way to compare or measure regulations by state or on a national scale. With the advent of online reporting, the Mercatus Center has been able to map regulations by quantifying regulatory codes and language.
Its RegData tool allows researchers to identify the industries that state regulations primarily target by connecting specific industry-related text to restrictive word counts. Words like “shall,” “must,” “may not,” “prohibited,” and “required” fall into the category of restrictive words, which Mercatus says “can signify legal constraints and obligations.”
The three industries with the highest estimates of restrictions in the 2019 CCR are administrative and support services; professional, scientific, and technical services (which includes legal services, accounting and tax preparation, and a variety of other professional services); and insurance carriers and related activities, RegData found.
The titles of the CCR are organized by the type of regulation they contain. The ten most regulated industries are Title 24 of the CCR, the Building Standards Code, with 75,712 restrictions, Title 8, Industrial Relations, with 51,139 restrictions, Title 22 Social Security with 48,745 restrictions, Title 14 Natural Resources with 30,000 restrictions, Title 13 Motor Vehicles with 20,057 restrictions, Title 10 Investment with 19,578 restrictions, Title 17 Public Health with 19,007 restrictions, Title 16 Professional and Vocational Regulations with 16,015 restrictions, Title 2 administration with 14,356 restrictions, and Title 25 Housing and Community Development with 12,204 restrictions.
“Researchers are only beginning to understand the consequences of the massive and growing federal regulatory system on economic growth and well-being in the United States,” Mercatus said. “If this snapshot of California regulation in 2019 is a good indicator, then the states are also active regulators, suggesting that the full impact of regulation on society is far greater than that of federal regulation alone.”
The Mercatus RegData project only reviews administrative law.
The five states with the most regulations are California, New York, Illinois, Ohio and Texas. The least regulated state is South Dakota.