The Legislature's Administrative Rules Committee has taken a preliminary look at two proposals intended to clarify the rule-making authority of various state agencies.
One bill would outline rule-making authority and amend the state code to give specific guidelines concerning that authority. The second bill involves the state's administrative services department and would directly affect policies and procedures for that agency. The bills have been referred back to staff for some reworking and clarification.Rep. Evan L. Olsen, R-Young Ward, a committee co-chairman, said the committee has recently embarked on what is expected to be a four- to five-year effort to clarify both rule-making authority and to determine whether existing rules are consistent with legislative intent.
Olsen said the rules have the status of law and are supposed to reflect the intent of the Legislature regarding the laws they interpret. Over the years, the rule-making efforts of the various state agencies resulted in some 17,000 pages of rules. This was reduced about two years ago to 10,000 pages by an executive order from Gov. Norm Bangerter. The rules have been kept in nearly 100 loose-leaf binders with little organization.
"The pages of rules that we have are more than in the state code," Olsen said. "There are many who question whether the rules are consistent with the intent of the Legislature.
"The people elect the lawmakers, and if they don't like what they are doing they can vote them out of office," said Olsen. "Rule makers are appointed by the governor, and there is little people can do about the rules that are made."
Olsen said the committee wants to develop a bill that would give the governor limited control over rule-making while also directly involving agency directors in the rule-making process. He noted that many departments consist of several divisions, and it is possible for the department head to be by-passed in the rule-making process.
"We want to make sure that all rules go through the department head to make sure that they meet the authority guidelines set for the department and that they meet the intent of the Legislature," Olsen said.
The committee will be busy and will likely become a permanent fixture. Olsen said the committee is involved in more than just the review process. The committee will hold hearings to give people having difficulty with existing rules a chance to plead their case. He said a case involving the state Tax Commission is likely to be heard soon.
"If we can resolve the problem at this level we will," said Olsen. "It may be that we will have to pass the matter on to the appropriate standing committee."
Between specific cases, the committee will focus efforts on cutting through the mass of rules and paring them down to a workable size that can be codified and reviewed on a timely basis to ensure compliance with legislative intent, said Olsen.
The committee is scheduled to meet again Aug. 2 to go over the general rule-making process, and again Aug. 16 to deal specifically with the administrative services department.
Olsen said it may take about three months to finish the rules bill, but the committee hopes to have something ready for the Legislature's consideration when it meets in regular session in January.