Brad Little admin rules press conference

Gov. Brad Little talks about further streamlining state administrative rules during a press conference in his office on Friday, July 19, 2019; at left is Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill; at right, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Steve Vick.

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BOISE — Idaho Gov. Brad Little joined GOP legislative leaders Friday to announce that the cutting or simplifying of more than a third of Idaho’s administrative rules this spring was just the start.

Little said he hopes that figure will rise to 50 or 60% once an ongoing review of occupational licensing rules is completed.

“It really has made a big difference in the rules of Idaho, streamlining them and making it much easier for people in Idaho,” he said.

Administrative rules are issued by executive branch agencies to implement laws passed by the state Legislature or the federal government. Idaho has a unique process in which the Legislature each year reviews all proposed new agency rules, and can reject those with which it doesn’t agree.

This year, that process broke down amid a dispute between the House and the Senate, resulting in 8,000 pages worth of rules — the state’s entire existing administrative code — automatically expiring on July 1 unless Little’s administration extended them. The review that followed was where the pruning and streamlining happened.

“Did we get here because of a great strategic plan? Arguably not,” said House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. “But it’s turned out to be a great opportunity.”

Not present at the press conference were representatives of the Legislature’s Democratic minority. House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said afterward that he’s glad “that they have eliminated obsolete rules and made things more clear and concise so that the public can understand them,” but believes that’s just “good governance” and something any administration should do.

“I am glad that Gov. Little is doing it,” Erpelding said. “I am just deeply disappointed that the Legislature is taking credit for it, when this whole thing was caused from infighting and unfortunate behavior during the session.”

The process included more than 40 public meetings hosted by state agencies since the end of this year’s legislative session April 11. As a result, 139 full chapters of state administrative rules were proposed for expiration as of June 30, 19% of Idaho’s administrative code.

In addition, sections within another 79 chapters are were proposed for expiration, and 31 chapters were rewritten to be simpler. All in all, more than 34% of Idaho’s administrative rule chapters either expired or were streamlined.

Little said he gives credit to state agency workers who took on the massive task. “This was not work that they had on their dance card for April, May and June,” he said.

The rules that were pruned ranged from eliminating annual re-certification requirements for fire code officials, which was deemed “an unnecessary regulatory burden”; to eliminating restrictions on formation of new credit unions that overlap the field of membership of existing ones. Rules governing attire for female combatants in boxing, kickboxing, martial arts or mixed martial arts were eliminated as unnecessary; other rules from a wide variety of agencies were found to be duplicative or simply outdated.

Little issued an executive order entitled the “Licensing Freedom Act of 2017” when he was lieutenant governor, filling in as acting governor; that was aimed at streamlining Idaho’s occupational licensing rules and regulations. That process has now brought forward 101 recommendations for rule changes, he said Friday, which will be considered in the coming months.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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