Wednesday, October 19, 2016

House Bill Would Create Yet Another Reviewer Of Regulations: Office Of The Repealer

Republican House member Kristin Hill from York County introduced House Bill 2408 Tuesday that would create yet another reviewer of all state agency regulations and statutes and make recommendations for their repeal if they “defy common sense.”
“Our Commonwealth has thousands of acts and regulations on the books,” said Rep. Hill in a co-sponsor memo to colleagues. “Many of these acts and regulations were passed several decades ago, and have yet to be re-examined and evaluated in the intervening years as to their relevance and appropriateness.
“The Commonwealth does not undertake a regular and systematic independent review of existing statutes and regulations, nor possess an organized system to receive recommendations from the public, educators, business, government entities and others on recommendations for repeal, modification or revision of existing statutes and regulations.
“This bill will establish the Independent Office of the Repealer to undertake such an ongoing review, receive and process recommendations, evaluate the merits of recommendations in accordance with decision rules and quantitative and qualitative criteria, and make recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor and Executive agencies for repeal, modification or revision.
“(The) review of existing statutes and regulations to: a) reduce or eliminate unreasonable, unduly burdensome, duplicative, onerous, outdated or conflicting statutes that hinder efficiency, understanding, liberty or are detrimental to economic well-being; b) bring statutes up to date to be in harmony with modem conditions; c) foster a more business friendly climate; d) make laws easier to read and understand by a layman.”
The actual language in the bill, however, authorizes the Office of the Repealer to review both statutes and regulations.
More specifically, the legislation authorizes the Office to adopt “logical, quantitative and qualitative rules to determine whether an existing statute or regulation of the Commonwealth is: (i) Unreasonable, unduly burdensome, detrimental to economic well-being, duplicative, onerous, defective or in conflict with another statute or regulation and (ii) defying a common sense approach to government.”
There is no requirement the “rules” adopted by the Office of the Repealer be subject to a public comment period and review as all other state agency regulations are.
The bill requires the establishment of a 3-member committee-- one member appointed by the Governor, and one each by the Majority Party in the Senate and House-- to select the director of the office.
One other duty of the new Office would be to create an online system for accepting public suggestions on which statutes and regulations should be repealed and reports of wasteful governmental practices.
A sponsor summary is available.  Rep. Hill also introduced House Bill 2373 on September 26 to create the Office of the Repealer within the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.
A Case Of Creating More Bureaucracy
First, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, the first independent reviewer of state agency regulations created by the General Assembly in 1982, already has the authority to review existing regulations.
Section 8.1 of that law says: The commission, on its motion or at the request of any person or member of the General Assembly, may review any existing regulation which has been in effect for at least three years. If a committee of the Senate or the House of Representatives requests a review of an existing regulation, the commission shall perform the review and shall assign it high priority. The commission may submit recommendations to an agency recommending changes in existing regulations if it finds the existing regulations to be contrary to the public interest under the criteria established in section 5.2. The commission may also make recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor for statutory changes if the commission finds that any existing regulation may be contrary to the public interest.
Note it even says if any committee of the Senate or House asks to have the IRRC perform a review of a regulation, it will do it.  It can also make recommendations for changing statutes.
Second, House and Senate committees all have continuous oversight authority over state agencies and their programs and regulations and can do their own review and hold hearings to solicit public comments at any time on any regulation or statute.
House and Senate members get ideas from the public all the time about statutes and regulations that need to be changed or repealed.
Third, in the case of environmental regulations, any person can submit a rulemaking petition to the 20-member Environmental Quality Board to make recommendations on changing an existing regulation or adopting new ones.
Individuals, companies and even children have petitioned the EQB over the years for changes in stream classifications, to adopt climate regulations and to prohibit diesel truck idling.
Fourth, contrary to Rep. Hill’s co-sponsor memo, Executive Order 1996-1 issued by Gov. Tom Ridge is still in effect and it requires state agencies to evaluate existing regulations using the same criteria related to cost and effectiveness and whether they go beyond federal requirements without justification.
At the Department of Environmental Protection, Executive Order 1996-1 resulted in a systematic review of regulations carried out over several years through the Regulatory Basics Initiative.
It worked through a transparent process with DEP’s advisory committees on section by section reviews of regulations and technical guidance.
The result of that effort was saving individuals, businesses and local governments $138 million in compliance costs, the elimination of nearly 5,000 pages of outdated regulations and more than 1,700 pages of unneeded technical guidance and 29 packages of regulatory changes.
House Bill 2408 requires no such transparent process or working with stakeholders.
The language used to justify the creation of yet another state office to review regulations in this bill is suspiciously close to the language used by some in the Senate when it adopted Senate Resolution 385 (Brooks-R- Crawford) Tuesday directing the Joint State Government Commission to identify environmental laws and regulations more stringent than federal law.
Both seemed to be aimed at giving some members of the General Assembly cover for rolling back regulations, in particular environmental regulations, they do not like by having some other office point the finger at a rule or statute that is “defying common sense approach to government.”
As we have often seen, common sense is a scarce commodity at times and legislating common sense, like this bill literally does, is particularly difficult.
Don’t legislators use common sense when they adopt statutes in the first place?
Related Story:
Analysis: Stage Set To Roll Back Decades-Old Environmental Protection Measures

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