PIERRE – The Legislature’s rules review committee decided Thursday to seek broader oversight of the regulations written by state government agencies.

Committee members voted 5-0 in favor of a draft that will be circulated to legislative leaders from both political parties for their advice.

If there is agreement the proposed changes would be submitted for consideration in the 2013 legislative session that opens Jan. 8.

“This has been very educational,” Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, said. She is the committee’s chairman.

The approved draft calls for clarifying the rules review committee’s existing authority to allow an agency’s rules to take effect or be sent back to an earlier step in the rule-making process.

Technically the committee doesn’t have the legal authority to approve or amend rules submitted by agencies. The proposed change calls for declaring the rule-making process is complete to the committee’s satisfaction.

There also would be an expansion of the committee’s authority. The members want to be able to suggest amendments to an agency’s proposed rules when those rules come before the committee for review, rather than telling the agency to go back and work on changes.

The amendments would need to within the scope of what was previously covered in the agency’s public hearing.

“That would be hard,” Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, said.

Agency officials could accept the amendments on the spot or hold another hearing if they chose.

The committee at its meeting last week told several agencies to step back on parts of their rules.

Earlier this year the committee directed the state Transportation Commission and the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission to revert to earlier steps, respectively on tourist-oriented directional signs and bighorn sheep license auction.

The rules review committee members also want to strengthen their authority to suspend an agency’s rules.

They already have the power to order a suspension until the end of the next session of the Legislature, but the committee wants state law to say the committee can introduce legislation that would make a suspension permanent.

Currently state law doesn’t address what happens after a suspension is ordered by the committee. “This is an attempt to fill in that piece of the puzzle,” Doug Decker, the committee’s lawyer, said. He is a member of the Legislative Research Council staff.

The committee this year decided to hold a suspension hearing on legal-advertising rates paid to newspapers. The state Bureau of Administration instead withdrew the proposed rate increases.

Agencies can make rules and regulations only within the authority granted to them by the Legislature. The rules review committee's purpose is to see whether agencies have stayed within their authority.

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