The House Committee on Regulatory Reform took testimony yesterday on House Bill 4326, sponsored by Jeff Farrington, R-Utica, which would prohibit state agencies from promulgating or adopting a rule more stringent than the applicable federal standard unless specifically authorized by statue. Several environmental and labor groups testified against the bill, claiming it would roll back environmental protection, according to a report in MIRS.
Critics of the legislation have gotten it wrong. This bill is not an environmental bill but rather a bill intended to reform a current government process that has taken the responsibility to write laws away from elected officials and vested it with unaccountable bureaucrats. In fact, the bill covers rulemaking in all state agencies, not just the Department of Environmental Quality. Regulation without representation is not good government. Currently, employees in the bowels of state government agencies have an unfettered ability to write rules to interpret laws with very little oversight from the elected representative who must justify their actions to voters.
It is not surprising that environmental groups would oppose the legislation as they no doubt see it as diminishing their influence over like-minded state employees who have written rules and policy memorandums that often go beyond legislative intent. An example of this are agency mandated procedures for cleaning up contaminated sites that make it virtually impossible for parties cleaning up the sites to receive closure — with the agency maintaining authority to restart the process at any time in the future. Another example is state rules that characterize wetlands so broadly as to make it nearly impossible for landowners to know if they have regulated wetlands on their property.
Labor groups rallying against the bill is more puzzling. One would think organized labor would be interested in more jobs being created in Michigan, which is in the best interests of their members. Placing limits on the unilateral authority of the administrative state, which HB 4326 does, will remove an obstacle to job creation in the state. Perhaps labor’s position on the bill has more to do with politics than it does representing workers.
Let’s hope legislators see through the smokescreen put up by critics of HB 4326 and press on with their necessary efforts to restore a proper balance to the lawmaking process in the state.