PEC Opposes Senate Bill 977

PEC sent the following letter to the Senate Rules Committee today on Senate Bill 977. 

January 22, 2018

To:       Members of the Senate Rules Committee
Re:       Opposition to Senate Bill 977 (P.N. 1363)

Dear Senator:

Today you may be asked to vote on Senate Bill 977, legislation similar to last session’s Senate Bill 562 that was vetoed by the Governor over concerns that it would cause uncertainty in the regulatory process and decrease transparency in state government. These concerns remain with the language of SB 977. For these reasons, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council respectfully asks that you oppose SB 977.

Specifically, our concerns with this legislation are as follows:

First, SB 977 would block publication of agency Statements of Purpose for rulemakings in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. There is no equitable rationale for this proposed revision to a longstanding, statutory practice – in fact, it decreases transparency by limiting information provided to the public.

Second, SB 977 enables standing committees of the General Assembly to unilaterally postpone Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) consideration of rulemaking proposals.

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, IRRC does not vote until after a proposal has been vetted by legal and scientific experts; subjected to review by the general public, advisory committees, the General Assembly, and the Attorney General; in addition to being vetted in other forums like the Environmental Quality Board. 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, SB 977 would enable standing committees to invoke the power to “further review” of proposed regulations a mere 24 hours before the IRRC votes, and sets an indefinite timeframe by basing said review on the legislative calendar. Given that there are prolonged periods where the General Assembly is out of session, this delay could extend over several months. This could have the effect of invalidating rulemaking proposals merely by lack of action by a single Committee within the mandatory rulemaking timeframe already set by law.

While we understand the importance of ensuring that standing committees receive all necessary and supporting information for review of regulatory proposals, SB 977 would block some of that information from being provided to the public at large, and create greater uncertainty for review and finalization of proposals.

SB 977 undermines certainty and transparency in the rulemaking process, and is against the public interest. We ask you to oppose this legislation.

Thank you for your consideration.

John Walliser
Senior Vice President
2124 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 481-9400