JEFFERSON CITY — Seeking to help the state's small businesses, the Missouri House of Representatives voted Wednesday to require periodic reviews of certain state regulations.
State agencies would need to evaluate whether a new administrative rule is necessary, obsolete, duplicative or could be more narrowly tailored while accomplishing the same purpose. Existing rules would expire on a rolling schedule that starts in 2015, and a similar calculus would be required if a state agency wants to renew its expiring regulations. Every state administrative rule would need to be examined at least once per decade.
In addition, state agencies would be required to respond within 60 days when someone requests a rule be adopted, altered or repealed. State departments would have to explain how the rule complies with the new requirements.
Administrative rules are developed by state agencies to implement laws approved by the legislature and signed by the governor.
Sponsoring Rep. Jason Smith said the measure could help make Missouri more attractive for small businesses. He said the state's tax credit programs and laws already have automatic expiration dates and legislators face term limits, so a similar policy for regulations makes sense.
"Rules that are made by bureaucrats stay on the books forever," said Smith, R-Salem. "There's 6,281 different rules. It's time that we look at them and make sure that they're just not left on the shelf that someday a bureaucrat might think, 'Hey, I'm going to dust this off, and I'm going to go after this business and enforce this rule that hasn't been enforced for 30 years.'"
The House on Wednesday approved the administrative rules legislation 102-57, on a party line vote. It now moves to the state Senate.
Democrats said the legislation could create uncertainty in Missouri's rulemaking process and be expensive to implement. Legislative staff said in a cost estimate that several state agencies reported the measure eventually could cost those departments more than $100,000.
Rep. Sara Lampe said examining the state's current administrative rules is a good idea, but that the legislation could create uncertainty for small businesses by creating the potential for debate about every administrative rule.
"It doesn't improve the structure and the process by which those rules are looked at," Lampe, D-Springfield, said. "It just sets off a bomb in that rulemaking process."
Brad Jones, the state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said administrative rules are less visible than state laws but also can add to the costs and requirements for businesses. He said regulations developed by state and federal agencies are a top concern and that knocking out a few overlapping rules developed by different governmental bodies would help.
"It is just good government for the state of Missouri to take stock of the 6,000-some odd rules that affect the lives of small business people every day," Jones said.