Walsh’s bills seek to reform state agency rulemaking

Rep. Jim Walsh has pre-filed two bills for the 2019 legislative session that would put limits on the rulemaking authority of state agencies. The lawmaker is looking to tighten up the process for agencies promulgating, or enacting, rules that have the power of the law.

With some exceptions, House Bill 1052 would give elected representatives more oversight in the rulemaking process. The bill would prohibit state agencies from initiating rulemaking or adopting new rules without Legislative approval. Further, agencies would be required to submit all current or pending rules to the Legislature for approval by Dec. 31, 2019. Any proposed rules would need to have clearly stated intentions and scope, including cost, benefits and analysis. Any rules not submitted to the Legislature for approval would be invalidated. Walsh says recent high-profile abuses in the news, and growing public suspicion of state agencies going too far, make this a good time for reform.

“In terms of pure policy, this bill may be the most important bill I’ve sponsored for 2019. In fact, it may be the most important bill I’ve sponsored since I was first elected,” says Walsh, R-Aberdeen. “The people of Washington need to exert their constitutional—and moral—authority over bureaucratic rulemaking. They know this. Many of them have told me so, directly. This reform bill gives them back that proper control, through their elected representatives. It restores the people’s authority over unelected bureaucrats who are, frankly, out of control right now.”

Walsh also sponsored House Bill 1029 which would establish clearer criterion by which the state Department of Ecology issues water permits. Reforms include requiring Ecology to identify clearly the procedures through which a water quality certification can be requested and evaluated. It would also prevent the denial of permits based on factors outside of the state’s jurisdiction to address. Walsh says developers and businesses have grown weary of Ecology’s seemingly shifting standards for granting or denying water quality certifications.

“We all want clean water, but Ecology has created an administrative compliance nightmare around the matter of water quality,” continued Walsh. “This bill doesn’t change any of the standards of water quality. However, it does prevent important economic development projects from facing reinvented rules and processes when their water permit requests are evaluated. It’s time for Ecology to go back to doing what it was established to do: rendering non-politicized scientific advice.”

The 2019 legislative session begins Jan. 14 and is scheduled for 105 days in Olympia.


Washington State House Republican Communications