The Rule Review Process: An Overview
( RCW 34.05.610 to - .681)
(See also Petition for Review Flow Chart and "Request for Review Suggested Format")
Over the years, legislators have been concerned that executive agency programs follow the intent of their authorizing statutes. Most visible evidence of compliance can be found in the agency's rules adopted under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
In the late 1970's, the Legislature took a number of steps to strengthen legislative oversight and agency accountability. Among them was the creation of the Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee.
During the first few years of its operation, the Committee (often called "JARRC") found a significant number of instances in which agency rules did not conform to legislative intent. As members of the Legislature, agency managers and other interested parties became aware of this process for addressing concerns about agency activity, the number of questionable rules dropped noticeably.
- The Committee's primary charge is to "selectively" review proposed and existing agency rules to determine whether they conform to the intent of the statute(s) they purport to implement.
- In 1992, the Legisltature provided that the Committee may also review any rule to determine whether it complies with the provisions of the Regulatory Fairness Act (Chap. 19.85 RCW), especially with regard to hearing any objections raised about the economic impact statements required for small businesses under that act.
- Related activities include determining whether rules are adopted in conformance with other statutory requirements, and whether policies or guidelines are being used in situations where formal rules should be adopted.
- Eight members, four from Senate, four from House of Representatives; 2 from each caucus in each house. And four alternates, one from each caucus of each house.
- Chair and Vice-Chair alternate in even-numbered years; Beginning in the year 2000, Speaker appoints Chair and Vice-Chair; President appoints Chair and Vice-Chair in 2002.
- Staff is loaned from Senate Committee Services and House Office of Program Research.
- Committee address is PO Box 40466, Olympia, WA 98504-0600 (telephone contact: Committee Assistant, 786-7407).
Since its inception in 1982, the Committee has consistently followed a number of formally adopted procedures designed to keep the process orderly and predictable, yet flexible enough to meet extraordinary situations. They include:
- Except in rare instances, the Committee only meets during interims between legislative sessions (time constraints during session preclude regular meetings and thoughtful deliberation on rules.)
- By law, three copies of each emergency or proposed permanent rule filed with the Code Reviser are delivered to the Committee. One copy is transmitted to staff of each appropriate policy committee in the Senate and House for preliminary examination. One copy remains in the Committee file until the next Washington Register is published.
- Standing committee staff review serves primarily as a checkpoint for adoption of rules in subject areas where the authorizing statute was controversial.
- Following staff analysis of the review request, the Chair schedules the request for preliminary consideration or formal hearing (preliminary consideration allows the Committee to determine whether the rules(s) in question merit formal hearing; formal hearings are scheduled immediately if the basis for review is clear).
- At the meeting/hearing, the review request is summarized by staff. In most instances, the parties requesting review present their arguments. The affected agency then defends its action on the rule. (See "Policies" below for further deliberations.)
In 1995, the Legislature approved several procedures to strengthen legislative oversight. They include:
- Any person may petition the committee for review.
- The committee must make a final decision within 90 days of receipt of the petition.
In 1996, the Legislature approved several procedures to strengthen the petition process:
- Petitions to JARRC only after agency denies request to amend or repeal.
- Petitions must contain:
- Specific proposed or existing rules;
- Identify statute;
- State issue; and
- Identify judicial action, if any.
The Committee has only two statutory sanctions available to it if a majority determines that the rule does not conform to legislative intent:
- Following the determination, the Committee notifies the agency of its objections and the reasons therefor. The agency must schedule a hearing on the objection within 30 days, then must notify the Committee of its action within 7 days after the agency hearing. If the Committee determines the agency has failed to amend or withdraw the rule, it prepares and files a formal objection against the rule for publicatio in the next Washington Register and subsequent publication of Administrative Code.
- By a majority vote, Committee may also recommend suspension of the rule. Within 30 days, the Governor must approve or disapprove the suspension. If approved, the suspension remains in effect until 90 days after next legislative session.
In addition to the Committee's procedures, it has adopted a number of policies to guide its decision making process. They include:
- The Committee does not review an agency rule if the objection is a matter of substantive policy, rather than one of legislative intent. In such a case, the request is referred to an appropriate standing committee for consideration of whether the statute involved should be amended.
- Another instance when the Committee will not accept review is when a rule has become the subject of a lawsuit. If a question remains after the litigation has been completed, a new request for review may be submitted.
- The Committee's approach is to seek negotiation of an issue. Many of the inquiries to Committee members and staff are resolved before reaching the stage of a formal hearing.
- Staff is directed to assist interested parties in attempting to resolve disputes over administrative rules. Examples include recommending early participation in the rule adoption process; consulting with legislators who might be interested in pursuing an issue with the agency; and consulting policy committee staff who are familiar with the subject matter.
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