Despite Moratorium, Hundreds of New State Regulations Imposed in 2012
Despite Executive Order 11-03 from Governor Christine Gregoire implementing a moratorium on “non-critical” agency rulemaking in 2012, state agencies still imposed more regulations than the previous year. Under the Executive Order, agencies weren’t supposed to adopt new regulations unless they, “protect Washingtonians from significant risks to public health, safety or welfare, or by request of local governments, businesses or entities the state regulates.”
It does not appear agencies paid much heed to Gregoire’s directive.
According to the report tracking rulemaking activity posted by the Office of the Code Reviser today, 430 new, permanent regulations were adopted by state agencies in 2012. These 430 new regulations imposed on citizens by the state fill 5,511 pages. In addition, 393 temporary emergency rules, were adopted, filling yet another 2,398 pages.
In sum, in a year during which there was supposed to be a moratorium on “non-critical” rulemaking, agencies filed 1,277 new rules that fill 14,738 pages. 823 of those rules were adopted, filling a total of 7,909 pages.
The impact of a rule can be greater than just one more rule to follow. One rule filing can impose dozens of changes to different sections of the Washington Administrative Code. One rule filing might contain one change to a WAC Section, while another could contain 800 WAC changes (this is an arbitrary example, but there is no limit on how many WAC sections a rule may change). So while 430 new, permanent rules were adopted last year, those 430 rules changed 1,129 sections of the WAC.
When one factors in the changes to WAC sections resulting from total rulemaking activity in 2012—the amendment of existing rules, the adoption of new rules and the repeal of existing rules—it amounts to 4,112 sections of code changed in just one year (not including the WAC changes resulting from the 393 emergency rules). All during a supposed rulemaking moratorium.
Keep in mind, this is on top of the 375 new, permanent regulations (filling 5,099 pages) and 516 emergency regulations (filling 2,746 pages) that changed 5,935 sections of the WAC imposed by agencies in 2011—another year in which the Governor ordered a moratorium on agency rulemaking via Executive Order 10-06.
So, over the course of two years (2011-2012), during which there was a moratorium on “non-critical” agency rulemaking, state agencies imposed a total of 805 new, permanent rules and 909 temporary, emergency rules that together fill 15,754 pages.
These regulations have the force of law. Individuals and business owners must know, understand and follow them or face penalties.
While the Governor’s moratorium on agency rulemaking brought some relief, Washington Policy Center has long-recommended (Chapter 6, pgs 195-204) a much more comprehensive reform of our state’s regulatory process. We believe the Governor should review and approve new agency regulations, and all agency regulations should include a five-year sunset provision, with Legislative review and possible reauthorization at the end of that period.
I was invited to testify today before the House Workforce & Labor Development Committee on two bills that reflect some of WPC’s recommendations. HB 1162 would require state agencies, prior to adopting rules and regulations, determine the economic impact of the proposed rule; and if the agency finds any negative economic impact, the agency cannot enforce the rule until it is passed by the legislature. HJR 4204 would amend the Constitution to require legislative approval of certain agency rules.
I testified that requiring agencies to research, understand and provide notification of the economic impact of agency rules, and bringing accountability back to the agency rule-making process via legislative approval, will help the state’s business climate, encourage job creation and spur economic recovery.