Legislation to undermine agency rulemaking adopted in State Government Finance Conference Report

by Leili Fatehi

Last month, we shared with you information about HF 1433, a bill written by and introduced at the behest of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce that imposes massive, time-consuming, and expensive hurdles that all state agencies must go through to not only adopt a rule, but even to propose a rule. The bill further makes it so that, even after clearing these hurdles, a rule cannot take effect until it is enacted by the legislature. At the time, we predicted that the bill, which has no Senate companion, would pass stealthily into conference committee without proper vetting by the House committees for Civil and Ways and Means. Our predictions proved true.

Yesterday, the State Government Finance Conference Committee adopted the language from HF 1433 in its conference report. It provided no opportunity for public testimony prior to releasing its report, and only two hours notice after releasing it.

SF 605 Conference Report: (Kiffmeyer, Anderson, S.) (see Article 4, p. 104)

Report Description

Proponents of Chamber's rulemaking provisions claim that their goal is to "streamline" rulemaking in order to reduce "excessive" costs and delays. In reality, however, these provisions will profoundly increase the size, length, scope, and costs of rulemaking. Here's a brief summary of what these provisions, found in Article 4 of the conference report, do:

  • amend the language of the state’s regulatory policy statement to make “maximum flexibility for the regulated party” the sole, absolute condition and goal for agency rulemaking and regulations
  • give individual legislative committees unchecked authority to block agencies from adopting or even holding public hearings for proposed rules and make it an agency’s burden to prove that a block is unjustified
  • impose requirements that the economic impacts of proposed rules to be assessed and also mandates that that calculation include a lengthy list of increasingly remote and unrelated costs but exclude even the most direct economic benefits that the proposed rule may produce which, in the environmental context, could include clean-up and remediation savings, more valuable environmental services, increased property values, growth in tourism and outdoor recreation, and more
  • use these skewed economic impacts to trigger requirements for additional reviews and approvals that delay and add millions of dollars of expense to the rulemaking process.
  • create mechanisms that guarantee the legislature can impose these additional requirements even when the agency’s determination of cost isn’t high enough to trigger them
  • require review by a 5 person “peer review” panel with no qualification or expertise requirements to determine the soundness of a proposed rule’s scientific, technical, and economic basis
  • require that rules be enacted by law regardless of the review panel's recommendations

Not once has there been testimony, in the conference committee or otherwise, in favor of these provisions from anyone other than the Chamber. The Chamber has never demonstrated how these provisions will reduce the costs and delays of rulemaking or even countered testimony from the agencies and others that they will do the opposite.

Next Steps

Friends of the Mississippi River and our clean water allies continue to urge House and Senate members, as well as Governor Dayton, to reject this and other legislation that hamstrings the ability of agencies to protect our environment, natural resources, health, and safety. There are a number of ways that you can help:

  • Contact Governor Dayton and urge him to veto SF 605, the State Government Appropriations Bill, and demand the elimination of the Chamber's rulemaking provisions
  • Sign the Sierra Club's petition to Minnesota's businesses leaders urging them to oppose and to hold accountable the MN Chamber of Commerce and their anti-environmental agenda.

 

For updates, see FMR's main legislative page.

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