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Idaho governor wants more cuts to state regulations

Inside the rotunda of the Idaho State Capitol building. Photo by Patrick Sweeney.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little and other top Republican elected officials said Friday that pruning thousands of pages of administrative rules could become standard practice each year.

Little, House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, all Republicans, said at a news conference in the governor’s ceremonial office that additional cuts and fine-tuning are still needed to the state’s administrative code.

Little’s office recently completed cutting or simplifying what he said is 40 percent of Idaho’s administrative rules. He said he wants to see that increase to up to 60 percent of all state regulations by the end of this year.

“The executive branch has our full support in this review and finding things that we don’t need and simplifying other things that we do need and making it more user-friendly for the regulated public,” Bedke said.

The rules touch on nearly every aspect of daily life. They include such things as protecting consumers, homeowners, the environment and school children. They range from hunting and fishing licenses and seasons to licensing for health care professionals and construction contractors. They are mostly products of the state’s obscure but important negotiated rulemaking process that involves public participation.

Backers of the rules cuts and simplifying, including Little, have consistently said the health and safety of Idahoans won’t be put at risk.

All the administrative rules were set to expire earlier this year after the House at the end of the legislative session in April killed a bill reauthorizing them. Little used his executive authority to give rules he wanted to keep temporary status, eliminating others deemed obsolete and clarifying additional rules.

“To change fundamentally direction, rather than simplify or eliminate duplication — that was not the direction I gave the agencies or that I thought was the right thing to do,” Little said about the changes. “We were not making big policy changes. Law and policy is the responsibility of the Legislative branch.”

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding said the changes he’s seen so far have been simply clarifying rules and removing obsolete requirements, something he said Republican governors and the Republican-dominated House and Senate should have been doing all along.

“They’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” he said. “I’m glad they made the rules more simple and easier to understand. But they have not changed the statutory requirements. When I see them trying to sidestep statutory requirements, I will, along with my colleagues, be pushing back aggressively.”

The administrative rules bill the House killed at the end of the legislative session died a complicated death when it became the focus of a fight between the House and Senate. The House tried and failed several times to change how administrative rules are re-authorized. But the Senate refused to give House members unilateral authority to kill administrative rules.

Ultimately, the House killed the administrative rules bill altogether on the last day of the legislative session. That set off a scramble in executive branch agencies to go through some 8,200 pages of rules, leading to the 40 percent in cuts or simplifying.

Bedke said he’s negotiating with Senate leaders on the administrative rules process, but he declined to say if a deal is near. He did say he would like to see some form of administrative rules pruning each year. One possibility was going through 20 percent of administrative rules every year.

Alex Adams, administrator of the Division of Financial Management, had the task of going through the 8,200 pages of rules this year and that had been accumulating for decades. He said future similar efforts would be easier.

About The Associated Press