Republican lawmakers want to make it harder for Indiana state agencies to create new rules.
State agencies each year pass dozens of administrative rules – they’re often the nuts and bolts to keeping the state running. Here’s an example: when you violate a traffic law, points get added to your driving record. Enough points and your license is suspended. Those point values are set by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, through administrative rulemaking.
A bill, HB 1100, from Rep. Steve Bartels (R-Eckerty) would force agencies to eliminate a rule every time they create a new one that contains restrictions, penalties or fines. He would also give the attorney general more power to halt new emergency rules. Bartels calls it a “proactive approach to government oversight.”
But environmental advocates like Shannon Anderson of Earth Charter Indiana said it hurts the state.
“At a time when we face increased pressures on ecosystems and public health, we need to remain flexible and nimble, ready to mobilize our state agencies to respond to threats and needs,” Anderson said.
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The measure also bans state agencies from creating a rule that's more restrictive than any federal rules or laws. Tim Maloney, Hoosier Environment Council senior policy director, said that causes problems because, in some cases, the federal government specifically lets states set their own policies.
"They are leaving discretion to the states to craft rules that fit our site-specific circumstances and facts on the ground," Maloney said.
The legislation also limits emergency rules to last no more than 180 days. And it requires state agencies to renew their administrative rules every four years, instead of every seven.
No one from any state agency or the Holcomb administration testified on the bill in either House committee it’s passed through. That’s frustrated some lawmakers, including Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis).
“I’m really troubled by this because, in my view, this bill is a dramatic change in the rulemaking authority across all kinds of agencies," DeLaney said. "And it’s as if we’re here all by ourselves.”
The bill will now go before the full House.