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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Eye on Boise: All state agencies going through rules review ‘on steroids’

Betsy Z. Russell (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Betsy Z. Russell (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Betsy Z. Russell Idaho Press Tribune

With 8,000-plus pages of administrative rules set to expire by July 1, state agencies are scrambling to go through all of their myriad rules and decide which ones should be reauthorized and which dropped. So far, many of those being identified as worthy of expiring have been rules that were redundant, unnecessary or out of date.

“The direction we gave was, look for obsolete, outdated, antiquated provisions,” said Alex Adams, Gov. Brad Little’s budget chief and also the new top overseer of the administrative rules process in Idaho. “That’s what we’ve seen come across. … So it’s been a good housekeeping exercise, is how I would characterize it.”

State Board of Education members seemed a bit flummoxed when they got to their administrative rules review during their board meeting last week.

Tracie Bent, administrative rules coordinator for the board, told board members that the Legislature normally takes action each year to extend the state’s administrative code for another year, including all new rules that lawmakers haven’t rejected. This year, however, amid political spats between the House and the Senate, the bill never passed. “So everything that is codified in rule will expire,” she said.

Bent said that means the board’s staff has gone through everything in its 22 chapters of administrative rules.

“We have identified a few sections of rules that were outdated or obsolete, and those are noted, so they will not be included in this omnibus rule-making that we are discussing today,” she said. For the rest of them, “They’ll be approved on a temporary and proposed basis, so they’ll go into effect on July 1 when the current codified rules expire.”

That will be followed by a 21-day public comment period, she said. Depending on comments received, the board could reconsider some of the rules. And then it will vote on all of them in October or November, sending the whole shebang to the Legislature for review.

“In addition to that, there are other rule-makings that we will be addressing this year,” Bent said. “So it’ll be much more complicated than it normally is.”

Retorted board member David Hill: “It wasn’t simple before.”

The state board’s 22 chapters of rules cover everything from graduation requirements and content standards for Idaho schools to standards for teacher certification, a code of ethics, definitions of average daily attendance, and numerous administrative details.

“If these rules had been allowed to just expire and go away, it could be very chaotic for our school districts,” Bent said.

The eight chapters being proposed for removal:

    Provisions regarding the handling of contested cases and public information requests are outdated, and state laws on those matters have changed since they were enacted.

    Rules about in-state residency for tuition purposes will be removed in favor of addressing that in board policy, which the board already is authorized to do.

    Rules for the State Professional Studies Program, a loan repayment program that has not been funded in more than a decade, will be eliminated.

    A “miscellaneous” rules section that contains just a provision about alcohol use in state facilities has been determined to be unnecessary; that’s covered in both state law and board policy.

    Two chapters regarding Career-Technical Education, including one on reducing or terminating programs, duplicate board policies; they’ll be eliminated.

    Two much-amended rule sections about Vocational Rehabilitation will expire, to be replaced by a new, streamlined, updated rule.

    Another rule regarding Extended Employment Services through Vocational Rehabilitation was determined to lack statutory authority; though the Legislature approved the rule in 2007, it’ll expire now and not come back until a law is passed to authorize it.

After hearing about all that, Hill asked the board, “Do we have any questions?”

“Have fun,” responded board member Don Soltman.

Hill said, “We’re obviously going to have to be dealing with this constantly throughout the year, and just plow through it as best we can.”

The board then voted unanimously to extend all other rules.

Similar discussions have been taking place at every one of the state’s roughly 60 entities with rule-making authority, from the Board of Health & Welfare to the Board of Dentistry, from the Oil & Gas Commission to the Board of Environmental Quality to the Board of Parks & Recreation.

“Each of those separate entities had to convene to go through this process,” Adams said.

For each set of rules the Board of Education reauthorized, there was a statement in the official documents, along with an explanation of what the rule does and why it’s needed.

The documents also note that fees charged under the various rules already have been approved by lawmakers as part of the state budget, and if they expired, the budget wouldn’t balance, violating the Idaho Constitution.

Adams said he hopes to have the list of all the expiring rules from agencies by the middle of this week, at which point it’ll be published on the Division of Financial Management’s website.

Though there’s plenty of duplicate language and bureaucratic requirements for every state agency with rule-making authority to go through in the process, Adams said, “It’s been a very healthy exercise for us to go through these and say: ‘Which of these are necessary?’ ”

Little said he’s been getting frequent updates about the process.

“As I’ve said over and over, I didn’t ask for this, but we’re going to be OK,” he said. “Under my Red Tape Reduction executive order, we already knew that there was going to be more work, that we were going to scrutinize rules from top to bottom. This just kinda put that on steroids.”

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