Senate approves Braun bill to rein in authority of state agencies

Today the state Senate approved legislation introduced by Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia to limit the power of state agencies by changing the way they make rules. Senate Bill 6396 would require proposed rules to be submitted to the state attorney general’s office for an opinion on their constitutionality. In addition, any new rule would automatically expire after a year unless the Legislature acts to extend it. The measure was approved by a vote of 26 to 23 and now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“The problem with the flood of agency rulemaking is a lack of transparency and accountability,” said Braun. “State agencies have created 6,100 new pages rules and regulations over the past 10 years that have the force and effect of law, often with minimal public input or transparency. Laws are meant to be made by the Legislature; putting that power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats is a detriment to our state’s democracy.”

The Washington Administrative Code contains 22,000 pages of agency rules and has increased by 38 percent in the past decade. Although state agencies are granted rulemaking authority by law, Braun’s legislation would make it clear that an agency also must show it has the authority to propose a particular rule.

“This is a reasonable approach to restore accountability in lawmaking to the citizens’ elected representatives,” Braun said. “Currently, too many rules are made by agencies citing their general purpose rather than a clear delegation of authority by the Legislature. If agencies know that we will be reviewing those rules, it will give them pause to reflect on exactly what legal grounds they are making the rule. The simple fact is that rulemaking lacks the transparency and public input of the legislative process.  As representatives of the people, we should not be handing that function of government over to the Executive Branch.”

Braun’s bill is modeled after practices in Colorado where any new rule adopted or amended expires after one year unless the Legislature renews the rule via legislation.