Philosophy, Law and Politics

Promoting Reasonable and Consistent State Agency Regulation in Ohio

Proposed new regulations of Ohio Executive Agencies are reviewed for adequacy by the Ohio Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, composed of members of the Ohio Senate and House.  In the current proposed revision of Ohio law governing the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (SB 221, amending Ohio Revised Code 106.021), perhaps it should be made mandatory that JCARR undertake review of whether a proposed regulation is contrary to law and similarly be required to request an invalidation of a proposed rule by the Ohio General Assembly upon making a finding that a proposed regulation is contrary to law. Under current law, both are left to JCARR’s discretion.

Mandatory review and invalidation is necessary because JCARR should be precluded from permitting unreasonable proposed rules and regulations to become effective. A regulation must be reasonable to be lawful. Agencies should adequately justify their decision making with sufficient analysis and explanation. It is the duty of JCARR to ensure as a balance and check on government that the agencies make wise and reasoned policy choices. JCARR does not supplant its policy choices for that of the agency, rather it only looks to the due and proper procedure and basis upon which the agency relies for the rule its seeks to promulgate. Such a requirement of reasonableness would result in regulation that is consistent with and does not conflict with governing law, without first relying upon a court for judicial review after the harm has been done. No committee of a state legislature should have within its discretion non-action upon arbitrary and capricious proposed agency regulation.

A review of the possible “adverse impact” of a proposed regulation is a preexisting requirement as to Ohio Revised Code 106.021(F). Usually neither an analysis nor finding of a possible adverse impact is reported for consideration as to the validity of a proposed regulation. Review of potential adverse impact usually merely addresses fiscal, business considerations, and not the substantive analysis required in legal drafting.

SB 221, Line 103, amending Ohio Revised Code 101.352, proposes to permit JCARR to seek an agency’s appearance to explain whether current rules reflect the principles and policies of the agency, or rather whether the agency should propose new rules that establish its present basis for regulation. Yet, this duty is permissive and subject to JCARR’s discretion and is not mandatory, even if JCARR is on notice that an agency’s regulations are not up to date? Would a mandatory provision place too great an administrative burden upon JCARR?

SB 221, Line 134, amending Ohio Revised Code 101.352, similarly permits that upon initiating review of an agency’s regulations and receiving an agency’s testimony at a hearing, JCARR “may” but is not required to vote upon whether to recommend that the agency review its regulations. Would making the vote mandatory create a violation of the separation of powers among the legislative, judicial and executive branches? Or, would it no more enhance the power and authority currently permitted JCARR than the creation of its power to review proposed executive agency regulations in the first instance?

SB221, Lines 1541-1619, amending Ohio Revised Code 121.931, permits a person to petition an agency to request a review of whether the agency has not properly revised or restated its regulations. If the agency denies the petition, the petitioner may appear at an agency hearing. In such a proceeding, how is the agency’s standard of review – that the petitioner has shown that the agency’s action in not revising its regulation is “erroneous” – to be defined? Is the burden of proof borne by the petitioner – that the agency’s previously stated “intention to deny the petition [for revision] is erroneous” — the same as a required showing of erroneousness by the petitioner as to the agency’s rationale for not granting the petition and undertaking a revision or restatement of the rule?  Does an inquiry as to whether the agency’s action is erroneous go only to questions of fact or also to whether the agency may have committed an error of law? Is a finding of erroneousness too high a standard for the petitioner to bear? Given that a petitioner may not appeal a denial of a petition within the agency, is an agency denial of a petition a final agency action permitting judicial review?

 

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