Senate Republicans Add Bills To Kill Regulations By Doing Nothing, Shield Violators From Enforcement To Environmental Agenda

On January 20, Senate Republicans reintroduced legislation again this session allowing the General Assembly to kill final regulations by doing nothing-- Senate Bill 32 (Phillips-Hill-R-York)-- and a bill creating a new bureaucracy to shield violators from enforcement-- Senate Bill 29 (Phillips-Hill-R-York).

These proposals are part of the Senate Republican environmental and energy agenda for 2021..

Killing Regs By Doing Nothing

Senate Bill 32 (Phillips-Hill-R-York) would require legislative approval of any economically significant final regulation or final-omitted regulation that has an impact of $1 million or more on a regulated community.

In order for a final regulation approved by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission to go into effect, the Senate and House would have to adopt a concurrent resolution approving the regulation.

If one or both of the chambers failed to act, the final regulation would be deemed NOT approved and would be prohibited from taking effect.

A similar bill last session to kill regulations by doing nothing-- Senate Bill 5 (DiSanto-R-Dauphin)-- was on the Senate Calendar for final action, but was Tabled at the end of session. 

A similar bill was passed by House Republicans last session-- House Bill 806 (Keefer-R-York)-- but it died in the Senate.

Office Of The Repealer

Senate Bill 32 (Phillips-Hill-R-York) contains a second provision creating a new bureaucracy-- Independent Office of the Repealer-- to review existing regulations from all state agencies and make recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor for the repeal or revision.  Read more here.

The only criteria offered in the bill for this review are--

-- Unreasonable, unduly burdensome, detrimental to economic well-being, duplicative, onerous, defective or in conflict with another statute or regulation; and

--  Defying a common sense approach to government.

The evaluation is not required to calculate the economic, environmental or public health benefits derived from a regulation, whether the regulation is required by state or federal law or other criteria.

House Republicans passed a similar bill-- House Bill 1055 (Klunk-R-York)-- last session that died in the Senate.

Repeal 2 For Every New Reg.

Senate Bill 32 (Phillips-Hill-R-York) would enact an arbitrary requirement for state agencies to repeal two regulations for every new regulation a state agency wants to adopt because, apparently, regulations have too many words.  Read more here.

Under this legislation, an agency would have to decide whether a new regulation to regulate PFAS chemicals, for example, was more important than an existing regulation covering hazardous waste disposal or surface coal mining they would need to repeal.

This provision was copied from the former Trump Administration.

House Republicans passed a similar bill-- House Bill 1055 (Klunk-R-York)-- last session that died in the Senate.

Forms Not Filled Out Correctly

Senate Bill 32 (Phillips-Hill-R-York) also contains a provision that a regulation is “deemed withdrawn” if there is “no provision of a state statue which explicitly states that the agency may promulgate regulations for the specific purpose cited in the state of need for a regulation” in the Regulatory Analysis Form required by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

The bill is not clear on who would make this determination.

The bill also said a regulation is “deemed withdrawn” if the Regulatory Analysis Form submitted to the IRRC is not filled out correctly and does not comply with Section 5 (a) of the Regulatory Review Act.

House and Senate Republicans have complained DEP has not filled out the Regulatory Analysis Form completely on several occasions and included that comment in letters disapproving regulations.  Read more here.

Shielding Violators

Senate Bill 29 (Phillips-Hill-R-York) requires all state agencies to establish a new bureaucracy in the form of a Regulatory Compliance Officer with no oversight of any kind giving him the ability to issue an opinion on what any person’s obligations are under the laws administered by that state agency (within 20 business days) which can be used as a “complete defense” against any enforcement proceeding. 

The Officer can also review any fine or penalty issued by the agency before it is imposed and set guidelines for waiving that penalty if the person being penalized “has taken or will take [steps] to remedy the violation.”

DEP, on average, issues 31,000 permits and approvals a year-- surely one Compliance Officer can handle all those questions without delays?

Oddly, this provision is also in Senate Bill 32 (Phillips-Hill-R-York).

This bill was introduced last session as Senate Bill 253 (Phillips-Hill-R-York) which was on the Senate Calendar for final action, but Tabled at the end of session. 

Similar legislation-- House Bill 762 (O’Neal-R-Washington) was passed by House Republicans last session and died in the Senate.

Senate Republican 2021 Environmental & Energy Agenda:

-- Senate Republicans Want To Mandate Private Contractor Permit Reviews, Eliminating DEP’s Review On Behalf Of The Public

-- PA Senate Republican Caucus Files Lawsuit Against Delaware River Basin Commission Over Shale Gas Drilling Moratorium

[Posted: January 21, 2021]


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