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By Rep. RICK WEST
We’ve seen a lot of important legislation signed into law this year, including anti-abortion measures, ones that protect our religious freedoms, bills that secure our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, a law that bans biological males from playing on female sports’ teams, and more. Those are all very important. But I will argue that another piece of legislation signed into law is almost as important.
Senate Bill 1913 creates the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.
Most people don’t truly understand administrative rules nor appreciate their importance. Once the Legislature passes legislation, and it’s signed into law, it’s then up to state agencies to write new administrative rules that detail the steps needed to meet the standards of the new law.
Say, for instance, we require high school students to take a new test. The law just specifies the new test is required. It would be up to the State Department of Education to adopt rules of how schools should administer the test and report the results back to the department. Schools then determine their own rules of how this will be done.
The state has almost 200 agencies, boards and commissions that write new administrative rules each year. The heads and members of these agencies, boards and commissions are not elected, however, so they don’t have to report directly to the people. Instead, they submit their administrative rules to the Legislature, which then must approve them. Once approved, these rules have the same force as law, so they’re important.
Rules are supposed to follow the law, but sometimes agencies get out ahead of themselves. Last year, for instance, the Health Department tried to adopt a rule that would have required parents opting their child out of vaccinations to watch an educational video about the importance of vaccines. The problem was, this wasn’t based on actual state law, but rather preempted the law. Agencies aren’t allowed to do that. This, of course, is just one example of unelected officials trying to force policy on the rest of the people without going through the legislative process.
To stop this rule, the Legislature first had to spot it among the thousands of rules presented each year. Then we had to pass a resolution to remove the rule. The governor then had to approve the resolution. It’s a complicated process.
To assist the Legislature in its task of reviewing the thousands of rules that come to it each year, we established this joint commission to examine these rules year round. This will help us pull out antiquated rules, and it will eliminate some of our red tape. This is a good bill. It puts the Legislature – the folks elected by the people to do their work – back in charge of determining what constitutes as law.
Remember to listen to me on KPRV Radio each Thursday morning during the legislative session. And if I can help you with anything, feel free to call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7413 or email me at [email protected].
Rick West represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.