PEC Expresses Opposition to House Bill 965 (P.N. 1885)

To:  Members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
From:  John Walliser, Pennsylvania Environmental Council
Re:  Opposition to House Bill 965 (P.N. 1885)

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, I am writing to express our opposition to House Bill 965 (P.N. 1885), which may come up for a vote the week of October 19. This legislation fundamentally alters established procedure for publication and review of proposed rulemaking that fall under the purview of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

Our objections to the legislation are as follows:

First, this legislation would block publication of agency Statements of Purpose in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. There is no rationale for this revision to existing practice – in fact, it decreases transparency by limiting information provided to the public.

Second, this legislation enables standing committees of the General Assembly to unilaterally postpone Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) consideration of rulemaking proposals without any predictable or certain time frame for resolution.

Currently, the Regulatory Review Act gives standing committees the power to further review or disapprove a regulatory proposal after the IRRC – which consists of four legislative appointees and one appointee of the Governor – has voted on it. Moreover, the IRRC does not vote until after a proposal has been vetted by legal and scientific experts, subjected to review by the general public (including the General Assembly and Attorney General), and, in some cases, considered by other governmental agencies like the Environmental Quality Board (which includes representation from the standing committees). Under existing law, when a standing committee invokes its power to review or disapprove, a regulatory proposal is stayed for a definite period of time, and can eventually be brought to a vote before the full legislature. In short, the General Assembly’s current oversight power is both substantial and well defined.

By contrast, HB 965 would enable standing committees to invoke the power to “further review” proposed regulations before the IRRC votes, and provides an uncertain time frame for such review by allowing for the greater of a set number of calendar or joint session days. As we know, there are prolonged periods where the General Assembly is out of session, meaning that such review could extend over several months. This is unreasonable and could have the affect of invalidating rulemaking proposals merely by lack of review within a definite time frame.

While we understand the importance of ensuring that standing committees receive all necessary and supporting information for review of regulatory proposals, HB 965 prevents some of that same information from being provided to the public at large, and creates greater uncertainty for review and finalization of proposals.

We believe this legislation, as currently written, is against the public interest and should be opposed by members of the House of Representatives. Thank you for your consideration.

John Walliser
Vice President, Legal and Government Affairs
Pennsylvania Environmental Council