Friday, October 28, 2016

Gov. Wolf Vetoes SB 562 Allowing Senate, House To Block A Regulation By Inaction

Gov. Tom Wolf Friday vetoed Senate Bill 562 (Gordner-R- Columbia) saying the bill has the potential to “grind the regulatory review process to a halt” and decreases transparency in state government.  His veto message says in part--
“In promulgating regulations, executive agencies are simply exercising legal authority already granted to them by the legislature.  Existing law already supplies the legislature with significant influence in the regulatory process.  The General Assembly has acted in many instances pursuant to this process to object to and significantly change regulations that members have felt exceeded the authority of the executive branch.
“Finally, this bill decreases the transparency in state government by preventing state agencies from publishing explanations of why regulations are needed.  Public notice, which is required by current law, helps  inform interested parties of the need and reason behind the changes in the rules.  We should be increasing-- not decreasing-- transparency in our government.”
A copy of the veto message is available online.
The House passed Senate Bill 562 by a vote of 109 to 81 and the Senate 31 to 16 largely along party lines. Neither margin is veto proof.
Earlier on Friday, the PA Environmental Council, Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA, Western PA Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund urged Gov. Wolf to veto Senate Bill 562 (Gordner-R- Columbia) because it allows the General Assembly to block a regulation by inaction for no reason and prohibits an agency from publishing a statement of purpose for a regulation taking away the public’s right to know why a regulation is being adopted.
The text of the letter follows--
Dear Governor Wolf:
We are writing to urge your veto of Senate Bill 562, which passed the General Assembly on concurrence vote October 26, 2016. This legislation amends the Regulatory Review Act to expand legislative review of rulemaking proposals – our concern is that the amendments decrease public transparency, and could lead to invalidation of proposals merely due to legislative inaction.
Senate Bill 562 grants standing committees of the General Assembly the ability to prevent a rulemaking from proceeding to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, or an agency from promulgating a rulemaking, unless and until that committee conducts a hearing and vote on the proposal.
The Committee is granted the greater of a set number of calendar or legislative session days to conduct this vote. Given the uncertainty of the General Assembly’s calendar, this review may not occur for several months.
When you consider that a rulemaking proposal, under law, must be finalized within two years of initial publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, an extended or uncertain hold on the proposal could in effect invalidate the rulemaking altogether, even without any action formal taken by the standing committee or General Assembly.
In practice, this could even mean that a simple majority of a standing committee – less than a dozen members of the General Assembly – could fully block a final rulemaking proposal that has undergone extensive public involvement and review pursuant to existing law.
Furthermore, Senate Bill 562 blocks publication of an agency’s Statements of Purpose for proposed rulemaking in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. There is no rationale for this change in long standing practice – in effect, it decreases transparency by limiting information provided to the public even when it is shared with the General Assembly.
We believe these amendments to existing law are against the public interest. For that reason, we urge you to veto Senate Bill 562.
Thank you for your consideration.
Harry Campbell
Pennsylvania Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Andrew Williams
Senior State Regulatory and Legislative Affairs Manager
Environmental Defense Fund
Davitt Woodwell
Pennsylvania Environmental Council
Cynthia Carrow
Vice President, Government and Community Relations
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
Wolf Vetoes Bill Giving Legislators More Control Over Regulations

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