Rules reauthorization process underway

State Board of Education officials have until Friday to identify any administrative rules that could be allowed to expire this summer.

The effort is part of Idaho’s project to reauthorize administrative rules after legislators adjourned the session without renewing them. The Legislature’s inaction meant all administrative rules — thousands of pages worth —would expire on July 1 if Gov. Brad Little doesn’t intervene.

Little and his staff have already gone on record saying they will reauthorize the rules. They have also outlined the procedures for doing so.

Rules are important because they have the force of law and affect Idahoans in many ways. Academic standards for public schools, state fees, immunization rules for schoolchildren and numerous health and welfare regulations all take the form of administrative rule.

As part of the effort to reauthorize rules, Little and his staff called on agencies to reduce red tape by allowing outdated, duplicative or unnecessary rules to expire.

Little’s staff said they aren’t targeting changes to education rules. But State Board officials have identified a handful that could expire, chief planning and policy officer Tracie Bent said.

One such rule involves a state professional studies program that hasn’t been funded in more than a decade. Another references outdated sections of code, since the Legislature re-codified Idaho’s open meeting law into a new section of code.

“Things like that we can go ahead and not go through the (reauthorization) process if there is no need to have the rule,” Bent said.

In order to keep school officials in the loop, Bent plans to send an email to the major education groups outlining the specific rules that could be allowed to expire. The idea is to avoid confusion in the field and keep from killing an important rule unintentionally.

After that, the process will pick up speed and may appear overwhelming.

On June 5, the state will provide written notice of Little’s plan to publish “temporary and proposed” rules concurrently, in the June 2019 Administrative Bulletin. State officials say that public notice could include more than 8,000 pages worth of rules. Idahoans will have until June 26 to comment.

Within those 8,000 pages, Idahoans will encounter numerous education rules. Bent said there are 22 different chapters of rules involving education, career-technical education and vocational rehabilitation.

Following publication of the Administrative Bulletin and the public comment period, Little will reauthorize the rules that aren’t set to expire by July 1. Then, in 2020, the Legislature will be able to review and scrutinize every line of every rule that Little reauthorizes. Because they will be republished as temporary and proposed rules concurrently, it will only take one legislative chamber to approve those rules, not both. Fee rules, however, are treated differently and will require both legislative chambers to sign off.

New rules coming forward

That’s far from the end of the rules discussion.

State agencies are also beginning to go through the negotiated rulemaking process for new rules — a completely separate process from the reauthorizing old rules.

The State Board will work this summer on at least one rule that could draw significant public interest. The board will define enrollment and some reporting requirements from House Bill 293, the so-called funding formula lite law. That law has already created confusion over teacher pay requirements and generated a lot of public interest at State Department of Education post-legislative forums.

Bent said State Board officials will hold a series of regional meetings in May and June to seek public input as they develop rules for implementing HB 293.

After those meetings, the rule will go before the State Board, likely during its August meeting. Then there will be another public comment period before the rule goes back to the State Board as a pending rule. Altogether, that will give Idahoans multiple opportunities to weigh in before the 2020 legislative session begins.

Bent said she and other State Board officials are committed to adding transparency to the process so Idahoans won’t be overwhelmed with all the different rules developments this spring and summer.

“One of the challenges when you have so many notices out there is to make sure people don’t miss the ones that are actually putting new provisions on state laws, like the enrollment definitions that could potentially be used in a future funding formula,” Bent said.

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