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Administrative rule changes could have to wait for Legislature’s OK

When Rep. Cindy Pugh (R-Chanhassen) joined the House in 2013 she had no idea what administrative rulemaking was. But serving for three biennial sessions on the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee “was really an eye opener for me.”

She learned from veteran members, like Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park), that the Legislature used to exercise greater oversight on the rulemaking process. That sounds to her like a better way.

HF1285, sponsored by Pugh, would stop an administrative rule from taking effect until the Legislature puts it into law.

On Friday, the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee laid over the bill, as amended, for possible inclusion in a future bill. The companion, SF769, sponsored by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), awaits action by the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.

“Since rulemaking has the full force of law, we need more oversight,” Pugh said.

The committee adopted Pugh’s amendment that would require rules adopted under an expedited process or “good cause” exemptions to return to the Legislature for approval before the next legislative adjournment date. Current law provides a two-year effective period for rules adopted this way.

Fiona Ruthven, an attorney for the Department of Natural Resources, warned that requirements for legislative approval may violate a constitutional separation of powers principle, citing a 2002 veto message by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Elizabeth Carlson, the department’s rules coordinator, said the bill could double the time it takes for rules to go into effect under the current process.

Tammy Pust, chief judge at the Office of Administrative Hearings, said the administrative law division held 63 proceedings on rulemaking last year. Eight were found to be not necessary, unreasonable or “outside the box” allowed by statute. Pust wondered whether the committee would have time to review as many as 63 rules during a session.

Pugh’s is one of a trio of bills related to rulemaking to recently come before the committee. On Feb. 23, the panel heard HF552, sponsored by Steve Green (R-Fosston), and HF1433, sponsored by Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls). Both were also laid over for possible inclusion in a future bill. Neither has a Senate companion.  

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