Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/23/2004 01:45 PM House FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 424 An Act relating to review of regulations under the Administrative Procedure Act by the Legislative Affairs Agency; and providing for an effective date. BARBARA COTTING, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE JIM HOLM, testified that HB 424 requires legislative legal review of regulations before they are finalized. Under current statute, only the Attorney General formally reviews proposed regulations and the review comes late in the process, when public comment has already been closed. After the Attorney General approves proposed regulations, they are transmitted to the Lt. Governor's office, where they are seldom changed and the public then becomes justifiably frustrated when they see regulations adopted that are different from the ones in which they commented. Ms. Cotting stated that under HB 424, legislative attorneys who actually draft the bills would review regulations being promulgated from those bills. By working cooperatively with the Attorney General's office, differences of opinion could be worked out before the regulations were finalized. In the event that differences could not be worked out, the Legislature would have the opportunity for input. She added that the overall impact to the State's economy would be positive. Adding legislative review to the regulation process would: · Help eliminate conflicts, · Create a more stable business environment, and · Increase the public's trust in government. Co-Chair Harris questioned the comment made by Ms. Cotting that the Legislature does not have the constitutional legal authority to abolish regulations. Ms. Cotting responded that they do not by statute. Co-Chair Harris stated that the Legislature has the authority to place regulations in statute. He understood that the legislation would have another group write regulations for the bills passed. Ms. Cotting corrected, indicating that the bill would provide for an attorney in Legislative Legal and Research Service Division, who would review regulations by the agencies. She pointed out that Tam Cook, the director from Legislative Legal, had submitted a fiscal note for the scope of that work in the amount of $98 thousand dollars, covering the cost for one attorney position. Ms. Cotting acknowledged that the action would be a policy call. The legislative intent causes much to litigate. Co- Chair Harris asked the legal ramifications of the Legislature writing its own regulations without the input of the Administration. He asked what would happen if the Legislature took over that entire function. DEBORAH BEHR, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, REGULATIONS ATTORNEY, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, commented the problem with having the Legislature providing the "nuts and bolts" of the regulations is that the Legislature is not around for so many months of the year. She understood why the Legislature did not want to delegate the work to the Executive Branch, which attempts to fill in the blanks in statute. If the Legislature wants to write their own regulations, it is legal and constitutional but it would mean that the Legislature would have to do much more substantial and detailed work for the individual statutes. Co-Chair Harris complained that one of the issues is that the Legislature writes legislation and then the Administration writes regulations that affect their point of view, which happens too often. He emphasized that was frustrating. Then the Legislature has to pass new legislation to make the original intent clear. Ms. Behr pointed out that one of the goals of the proposed bill, itemized on Page 3, Lines 8-12, was to have the assigned attorney notify various bodies in the Legislature to review and provide additional legislative oversight. The framework in the bill is designed to facilitate the oversight. Co-Chair Williams asked if she was referencing the Legislative Regulation Review Committee. Ms. Behr responded that the Legislative Review Committee has an active role in the HB 424. DAVE STANCLIFF, REGULATION REVIEW COMMITTEE, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE PETE KOTT, informed members that Minnesota co-writes regulation with their Administration. That state has fewer conflicts than experienced by Alaska. Colorado has a Regulation Review Committee and the drafters, track legislation and watch for when the regulations are put forth and then highlight specific problems for the Regulation Review Committee. That check and balance provides a screening process to let the legislators know if there is anything wrong. Because of the threat of the screening process, the regulation writers are more precise in writing regulations. The Courts have found that the legislature has limited ability to change regulations once they are in place. The bill provides an outline on how to build a cooperative partnership and helps to determine if the number of regulation concerns could be reduced. In response to Co-Chair Harris query, Mr. Stancliff indicated that he has been involved in the Regulatory Review Committee, consisting of a staff of one. Co-Chair Harris asked if it would be prudent to have the Committee consist of an attorney as the staff person. Mr. Stancliff acknowledged that was a possibility. Each legal realm within the process has to develop it's own "flavor" and that would be the choice of the Legislature whether to hire the attorney. He pointed out that Legislative Legal Agency is a non-partisan and credible process. In good government reform, it is important to look at something that serves any philosophy well over time. Representative Foster referenced the $98 thousand dollar fiscal note. He requested to add his name as a co-sponsor of the bill. Ms. Behr pointed out that hiring a professional editor costs a lot more than the services associated with Legal Services. Representative Stoltze stated that no matter who is in office, there must be a 2/3 majority to repeal a resolution. He did not know what the solution should be to address the concerns of the proposed legislation. It is difficult to micromanage each issue. Representative Hawker shared Representative Stoltze's concern with the legislation. He was troubled with the Department of Health & Social Services fiscal note, indicating significant costs to that Department. They are working diligently on regulations to improve their cost efficiencies and unnecessary delays could result in continued expenditures. Ms. Cotting pointed out that two of the fiscal notes are out dated and address earlier versions of the bill. The only note that is current is the one from the Legislative Affairs Agency. She believed that the narrative would be changed for the other two notes. There would be no mandated delay with passage of the bill. Mr. Stancliff pointed out that there are two provisions in the bill that explicitly state that nothing that Legislative Legal does will hold up the process in any way. It would be a constitutional separation of powers. The bill and the principal of it are based to tie into two other measures that will come before the House Finance Committee. HB 242 addresses the "front-end" into the regulatory process, HB 203 deals with the center of the adjudication process and HB 424 creates the safety valve at the end of the process. PAM LABOLLE, ALASKA STATE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, JUNEAU, voiced strong support for the proposed bill. With 40,000 regulations in Alaska and 93% of all regulations proposed becoming law, it is important for business to watch exactly how regulations are formed, enforced and reviewed to ensure we are able to navigate the system. Senator Therriault has introduced a three-tier package on regulatory reform to render the system more efficient and flexible. The three bills are: · SB 203, Fair Hearing Bill · SB 287, Legislative Legal Review of Proposed Regulations, and · SB 333, Judicial Extraction from Administrative Review. Currently, State agencies that write and enforce administrative law also hear complaints against those laws. HB 424 provides a fix for the system by separating the administrative adjudication process from the agencies. The bill creates a central hearing panel that gives hearing officers a more independent and protected station from which to deliver timely due process through fair and objective hearings, thereby, creating an efficient and more professional administrative hearing process. Initial start- up costs would be recouped and significant savings would accrue through the efficiencies. The reductions in time due to the efficiencies would reduce costs to businesses. Co-Chair Williams stated that HB 424 would be HELD in Committee for further consideration.