The Interim Rules Review Committee spent most of the morning of its Sept. 9 public meeting in the State Capitol re-establishing its own authority.
Wenzel Cummings, code counsel for the Legislative Research Council (LRC), explained how the LRC and individual state departments update and clarify department rules.
Often, updating involves modernizing calendar dates, adding commas or deleting a redundancy. These are not necessarily what the committee is concerned with, but rather significant changes that affect citizens.
“It is not your role to be a copy editor on style and form,” said Cummings.
All proposed rule changes submitted by a state department are reviewed by the LRC, which makes suggestions to any proposed alterations. The department may use, or not use, these suggestions.
Then the committee looks at the applied-for version. If it accepts each alteration, it declares “the process is complete,” and each dotted i and crossed t becomes official. If the committee does not accept a given applied-for change, the department’s suggested rule version reverts back to the previous version.
For this meeting of the Rules Committee, the South Dakota Department of Social Services’ list of proposed rules changes was extensive.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) wished to amend rules for seemingly simple things such as moving information to its website, updating rule references and repealing duplicated information. It also wished to change more intricate items, such as updating third party liability claim requirements and clarifying training costs.
The aspect of DSS public information that set the committee on edge was referring to items, rules and charts that are on federal websites. Much of DSS information is dependant on federal programs and federal qualifications. Yet, a South Dakotan without a computer would not have access to such links. Even with a computer, South Dakotans can easily be confused. The referencing — rather than showing — of the information on the website is far more cumbersome and confusing if the connected federal website is general or just a starting point rather than a ‘hot’ or direct link to the exact information or chart.
“Rules are for the public,” said committee member Senator Craig Kennedy (D-Yankton). “If you move the subject to a website, that (public accessibility) all goes away. I think moving these things to a website affects the authority of the agency. If all we are doing is accepting federal rules, then fine, put it into the rule-making process. Don’t just say we will put it on the website for you. I’m pretty good at computers, and I don’t think everyone can follow this process. My first thought was your agency wanted to circumvent the process.”
“Where did people see this information before it was moved to a website?” asked committee member Representative Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids). It was available directly to the individual being assisted by the DSS.
“Yes, charts are current and active on the federal websites. The DSS is referencing to federal regulations, but you have to cite it, and you have to go through this committee,” said committee chair Senator Alan Solano (R-Rapid City).
Teresa Schulte, administrative rules DSS, and Brenda Tidball-Zeltinger, deputy secretary DSS, said they would be happy to comply with the committee on putting federal charts, rules and information directly into the rules available to South Dakotans.
“I understand the DSS is dealing with 99 pages of rules and you want to make the process easier — for the agency — but it has to be easier and helpful for the public,” said committee member Senator Lance Russell (R-Hot Springs). “I am intrigued on what you will have the next time we meet.”