A bill that sought to limit state agency regulations to the bare minimum allowed by federal law has died in committee.
House Bill 1100, authored by Rep. Steve Bartels, would have prohibited state agencies from setting any regulation that is “more stringent” than comparable federal statutes or regulations.
The bill would have also forced agencies to eliminate a regulation before adopting a new one.
Bartels previously argued that the state Legislature, not state agencies, should have the power to make regulations more stringent than federal law. According to Bartels, the bill would serve to impose checks and balances on state agencies.
Environmental and consumer advocacy organizations have argued that the bill would limit the state’s ability to make decisions affecting the health of Hoosiers and the environment even further than it already has.
Sen. Chip Perfect, chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Technology, pulled House Bill 1100 from consideration, saying he agreed with the concept of the bill but disagreed with its “one-size-fits-all” approach.
“Something's been gnawing at me about this bill. I just couldn't, even though I love the concept, I just couldn't get there on this bill,” he said. “This is a one-size-fits-all bill for agencies. And there are several things in here that I support that should be one size fits all. But frankly, I thought that there were too many things that affected agencies differently. So, we're not going to vote this bill out.”
Perfect, owner of a ski resort in southeastern Indiana, Bartels, owner of a marina and a winery near Patoka Lake, and other business owners stand to benefit from a reduction in regulations.
Bartels said he thinks Indiana residents worry about state agencies making decisions, rather than elected officials.
“I think the citizens are scared of the bureaucracy,” he said.
Bartels said he hopes legislators will come back next session with a more robust proposal.
Environmental advocacy groups said they were encouraged by the bill’s dismissal and will be prepared for the introduction of a similar bill next year.
Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, said most Hoosiers, including legislators, don’t realize that state regulations stem from federal laws. Indiana’s environmental laws, for example, are derived from federal laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, which have provisions that delegate their implementation to states.
States are responsible for ensuring that federal requirements are met, and they have some leeway in how that happens.
Maloney said state environmental regulations and other administrative laws help Hoosiers every day.
“It’s not a glamorous type of issue, but it certainly affects our daily lives in many ways,” he told the Indiana Environmental Reporter. “Whether it’s making sure that professionals are licensed in their field or that agencies try to protect our natural resources or our environment. That’s work that they’re doing behind the scenes. Are they perfect? No. Can the agencies be improved? Sure. We hope people will realize that this is a very important discussion that you can’t just paint as ‘too much red tape and regulation’ without understanding the purpose behind all of it.”
Maloney said he is encouraged by the passage of another bill that made its way through the Legislature that may add clarity to the jumble of regulations that exist in the Indiana state government.
Senate Bill 264, which was approved by both houses of the Indiana General Assembly, will establish a 10-member task force to review how Indiana agencies adopt administrative rules and fees and other administrative rulemaking issues.
Maloney said the task force is a better option for reviewing state administrative rules than what was proposed in HB1100.
“Part of our position has been that that's the appropriate approach to concerns about state agency rulemaking and implementation of state laws. That's a very complex area of state governance and deserves a very deliberative, thoughtful review with all the all the parties at the table. And we hope that's what will happen with this taskforce,” he said.
SB264 now heads to Gov. Eric Holcomb for approval.