State Agencies Push Changes to Rule Adoption Process

This “Unsession” priority bill would reduce the information about rules made available to the public and Legislature to streamline the adoption process.
(Published Mar 24, 2014)

Legislation backed by Gov. Dayton as part of the “Unsession” package proposes significant changes to the required process used by state agencies to adopt rules.

The bill (SF 2467/HF 2724), as introduced, makes a large number of changes, including:

  • Reduced public notification timelines.
  • Deletion of the current specific information required to prove a regulation is both needed and reasonable.
  • Removal of legislative notification of rule dockets and final rule content.
  • An increase from 25 to 100 in the number of signatures needed to require a public hearing on a proposed rule.
  • Significant modifications to how and when concerned parties can present testimony during administrative hearings.
  • Limits on the review power of the administrative judge reviewing the proposed regulation.

Concerns about the bills
The proposal was developed by state agencies with no input from affected parties, and was presented during the early days of the legislative session in late February. The League, along with other local government groups, business and industry groups, utilities, and construction and builder groups, has had to work fast to try to uncover exactly what the 20 pages of changes to a complex legal process do. The League provided a written summary of concerns to the administration within two days, closely followed by many others who raised the same concerns.

There is a core reasonable goal involved for the state in this effort of making rules that are not controversial faster and easier to complete. The changes being proposed, however, drastically change how all rules are done, not just the non-controversial ones. Some rules are extremely contentious and complex, and should continue to receive a very high level of scrutiny, with the state required to prove a clear and strong case for their regulatory action.

The League is working with the other concerned groups to jointly negotiate with the administration to make sure that if changes are made to this process, adequate information and opportunity continues to exist for affected parties to prevent unreasonable or unnecessary regulations from being adopted by state agencies.

Status of the bills
SF 2467 (Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL - St. Paul) was passed by the Senate State and Local Government Committee late on March 21. All testimony given opposed the legislation except for that given by state agencies.

The administration did significantly amend the bill to deal with some of the concerns raised earlier in the session and a couple additional minor changes were made at the hearing.

Rule-related language from SF 2276 (Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing) was also amended to the bill. That bill was amended by the author in an earlier committee hearing to address concerns raised by the League and other local government and business interests. The amended bill will not have any further policy hearings in the Senate, and was sent to the Senate Finance Committee.

HF 2724 (Rep. Mike Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park) is scheduled for its only policy committee hearing on March 25 in the House Government Operations Committee. Work will continue to find a way to amend the proposal to allow some efficiencies to be gained in the process related to non-controversial rules without giving up important protections for an informed, fair, and open approval process for the public and to make sure the Legislature is fully informed of planned agency rule-writing activity.

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