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Moratorium on administrative rules leads to uncertainty

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Indiana Lawyer Focus
romig Romig

It’s taking some time to see just what the effects of a relatively new executive order will be on state agencies, such as the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and the Hoosiers affected by those agencies’ work. On Jan. 14, one of Gov. Mike Pence’s first actions was to sign Executive Order 13-03 which placed a moratorium on the promulgation of any new administrative rules by Indiana’s agencies. Gov. Pence believes the moratorium will free the Office of Management and Budget from the burden of reviewing new rules and give it more time to examine existing regulations to determine which rules impose unnecessary and burdensome costs on Indiana business owners and, therefore, hinder job creation. As a follow-up to his moratorium, Gov. Pence introduced his “Cut Red Tape” initiative with a new website in July. The website – www.in.gov/cutredtape – solicits suggestions about which regulations should be simplified or eliminated. Hoosiers are asked which regulations they consider “most burdensome.” Their suggestions are sent directly to OMB staff members.

There are certain exceptions to the moratorium, such as rules which the agency had announced an intent to adopt before the moratorium took effect on Jan. 14, as well as rules which:

• are related to job creation;

• repeal existing rules;

• reduce state spending;

• reduce agency waste;

• are emergency rules; or

• those necessary to implement federal or court mandates.

If an agency wishes to promulgate a rule within one of these exceptions, it must notify the OMB that it is promulgating the rule under the exception – and presumably satisfy the OMB that such promulgation is necessary.

In February, a document was circulated to agencies notifying them how to proceed under the moratorium. If an agency believes that it needs to promulgate a rule, and it fits one of the exceptions listed in the moratorium, its head must submit a written request via email to the OMB director including the reasons why the proposed rule fits an exception. The OMB director will review the request and make a written determination of whether an exception applies and if the rulemaking may go forward. If the OMB director determines that an exception does not apply, the rulemaking is officially suspended. The document doesn’t discuss how an agency may proceed if it strongly disagrees with the OMB director’s assessment. Only after the OMB determines an exception applies may the agency file a notice of intent to adopt a rule and proceed under Indiana Code 4-22. It appears the moratorium is actually building an additional layer into the rulemaking process for agencies by making the OMB director a “gatekeeper” to determine whether rules meet the governor’s exceptions necessary for good government. The document does not specify any time limits or deadlines by which the OMB must make a determination.

Even before Gov. Pence signed the moratorium, Indiana legislators had addressed a need to constantly review regulations to ensure that stale, inapplicable rules didn’t remain on the books. Under Indiana law, many administrative rules expire seven years after they take effect. (IC 4-22-2.5-2). Certain rules necessary for federal approval of programs delegated under federal law don’t expire, but must still be readopted after seven years. (IC 4-22-2.5-1.1). A few subcategories of rules are excepted from expiration. (IC 4-22-2.5-1). When rules are readopted, agencies must go through the full rulemaking process. (IC 4-22-2.5-3). The rulemaking process includes a review in which the agency must consider other alternatives that are less “costly” or “intrusive” including whether there is even a continued need for the rule. (IC 4-22-2.5-3.1). The public has an opportunity to comment during this procedure. This “sunsetting” policy where rules must be readopted ensures that agencies are constantly reviewing (at least on a seven-year cycle) whether rules are necessary and what effect these rules might have on small businesses.

Gov. Pence’s moratorium doesn’t address how the OMB’s review of all existing regulations will proceed in light of the statutory sunsetting provisions. Many agencies, such as the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, are required to promulgate rules to maintain their “delegated” status under various federal laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Since any rules passed by such agencies to comply with federal law fit one of the moratorium’s exceptions – presumably the OMB will approve such promulgation. However, seeking such permission and determination adds additional time to the already lengthy rulemaking process. When these agencies must also readopt rules – and follow the same time-added process – they’re likely facing an additional demand on resources that are already spread thin by reduced budgets.

State Budget Director Chris Atkins stated in June that notices of intent to file new rules had drastically dropped in the first part of 2013, compared to the same time period in 2012.

Although the public has always had an opportunity to comment on proposed rulemaking and readoptions, Gov. Pence has provided an additional opportunity for any regulated entity, such as a business with environmental emissions, to vent its frustrations and to suggest which regulations should be reviewed first by the OMB.

But, eight months after signing the moratorium, it is still unclear what effect the governor’s order will have on simplifying Indiana’s regulatory systems in light of existing statutory safeguards against stale, outdated and burdensome rules. It is also unclear how the OMB will cope with its ordinary job of reviewing pending regulations that are excluded from the moratorium while reviewing the approximately 11,000 pages of existing regulations and how it will juggle the suggestions coming in from the “Cut Red Tape” website. The environmental legal community will be closely watching to see how these uncertainties are clarified.•

__________

Amy Romig is a partner at Indianapolis-based Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, who focuses on environmental law. She can be reached by email at aromig@psrb.com or by calling 317-637-0700. More information about Amy is available at www.psrb.com.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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