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National Regulatory Reform Progress Rankings Report 2023

Cicero’s 2023 National Regulatory Reform Progress Rankings Report is a comprehensive, forward looking annual report that uniquely addresses state regulatory environments across metrics that are derived from policy solutions. The research directly informs our future policy and serves as a tool for policy makers and members of regulatory agencies and communities nationally to assess where their state stands along the path to an accountable, reviewable, and transparent regulatory system.


Regulations, whether federal, state, or local, impose burdens on businesses and citizens in the name of harm reduction, fairness, or safety. However, many regulations fail to provide the benefits their authors anticipate while at the same time foisting complicated paperwork, reporting, and business changes on employers and innovators. While businesses may bear the initial brunt of regulations, customers pay in terms of higher prices, employees pay in terms of lost wages and jobs, and investors pay in terms of profits lost in layers of red tape. State regulatory burdens are generally not as onerous as federal ones, but for companies that operate in multiple jurisdictions, the unique and often contradictory regulations imposed by different states and localities can add significant complexity and cost. The processes of creating regulations and evaluating them over time needs reform. The best procedural regulatory reforms have three goals: accountability, reviewability, and transparency. 

Accountability means that the government actors who impose a regulation should be willing to stand behind it and defend it as a valid and worthwhile exercise of government power. Accountability also means that the agency has carefully evaluated the costs and benefits of the rule to ensure it will do more good than harm including setting metrics for how a regulation should be judged in the out years. 

Reviewability means that citizens have an opportunity to challenge rules and regulations, that the courts do not needlessly assume that agencies are acting in the best interests of the state, that agencies cannot enforce unwritten or non-public rules, and that the state has the burden of explaining the legal basis of a rule. 

Transparency means that normal people, small business owners, political activists, and lobbyists alike generally should be able to know what is being proposed, participate in the regulatory creation process, and identify the rules they must follow without hiring expensive lawyers.

The Cicero Institute has been developing policy solutions for states that enhance these fundamental principles of regulation, and this research is designed to assess the progress states are making to accomplish those goals. There have been several nation-wide studies of the regulatory process with their own criteria and results. The research presented here uniquely addresses regulatory environments across metrics that are derived from policy solutions, rather than broadly surveying rulemaking processes state by state. This research directly informs the policy and serves as a tool for policy makers and members of regulatory agencies and communities nationally to assess where their state stands along the path to an accountable, reviewable, and transparent regulatory system.


Each state was assessed on more than 20 metrics for a total of over 1,200 data points. First, the rubric focuses on specific policy reforms that research shows are most likely to lead to accountability, reviewability and transparency. The scoring system compares states to these policy ideals. The grading scale was designed to present an accurate picture of the regulatory environment of any given state measured against our reform criteria and to present that information aptly and quickly to any policy maker or analyst. We identified best practices in the regulatory process and have ranked states accordingly.

Data was collected using first the State Administrative Procedure Acts, then state code and secondary sources such as relevant studies. The use of executive orders to fulfill grading criteria was limited in scope. In most cases, states with recent or current executive orders instituting a regulatory reform received partial points for the specific category or criteria the order satisfied. As a rule, executive reform was not prioritized as the focus of the research was on codified procedural reform evident in state APAs.

Each state was assessed and scored individually, and the aggregate data were placed into a database with notes and relevant statutes present on each state’s segment. Many states have provisions in their APA that partially meet the criteria for any given subsection, and the scoring criteria reflect this by awarding partial points in some places.

Due to the dynamic nature of the Republic, every state has an APA unique to itself, and none are collocated. Some data may be unavailable, and the results of the research are dependent on an interpretation of the grading criteria by the researcher or research team. Additionally, laws which are on the books were assessed. but whether or not those laws are faithfully and fully executed was not tracked. As an example, a state might have received points for requiring cost-benefit analysis in their APA, but this report does not look behind and evaluate whether the courts are throwing out regulations that fail to include a cost-benefit analysis. Results may skew in favor of some states that took action to implement high quality regulatory reforms in the past but whose laws have been ignored recently, or who lack oversight in practice. The research presented is based on the statutes themselves, rather than on whether the states follow these rules in practice.

Aggregate data is available upon request. To reach the Cicero regulatory research team, contact [email protected].