Today PEC, in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, urged Governor Wolf to veto Senate Bill 562. This legislation prohibits information from being published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, and would allow a majority vote of one legislative committee to block a public rulemaking proposal.
The text of the letter follows:
October 28, 2016
The Honorable Tom Wolf
Governor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
508 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Re: Veto of Senate Bill 562 (P.N. 1897)
Dear Governor Wolf:
We are writing to urge your veto of Senate Bill 562, which passed the General Assembly on concurrence vote October 26, 2016. This legislation amends the Regulatory Review Act to expand legislative review of rulemaking proposals – our concern is that the amendments decrease public transparency, and could lead to invalidation of proposals merely due to legislative inaction.
Senate Bill 562 grants standing committees of the General Assembly the ability to prevent a rulemaking from proceeding to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, or an agency from promulgating a rulemaking, unless and until that committee conducts a hearing and vote on the proposal. The Committee is granted the greater of a set number of calendar or legislative session days to conduct this vote. Given the uncertainty of the General Assembly’s calendar, this review may not occur for several months.
When you consider that a rulemaking proposal, under law, must be finalized within two years of initial publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, an extended or uncertain hold on the proposal could in effect invalidate the rulemaking altogether, even without any action formal taken by the standing committee or General Assembly.
In practice, this could even mean that a simple majority of a standing committee – less than a dozen members of the General Assembly – could fully block a final rulemaking proposal that has undergone extensive public involvement and review pursuant to existing law.
Furthermore, Senate Bill 562 blocks publication of an agency’s Statements of Purpose for proposed rulemaking in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. There is no rationale for this change in long standing practice – in effect, it decreases transparency by limiting information provided to the public even when it is shared with the General Assembly.
We believe these amendments to existing law are against the public interest. For that reason, we urge you to veto Senate Bill 562.
Thank you for your consideration.
Pennsylvania Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Senior State Regulatory and Legislative Affairs Manager
Environmental Defense Fund
Pennsylvania Environmental Council
Vice President, Government and Community Relations
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy