House committee passes bill leaving fate of Hoosier Health, Environment in federal hands

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A bill that would allow the federal government to set the bar for regulations across all state agencies is making its way through the Indiana House of Representatives.

House Bill 1100, drafted by Rep. Steve Bartels, would, among other things, prohibit state agencies from making regulations “stricter” than comparable federal laws or regulations.

That could leave the state of Indiana dependent on the federal government to act on state-specific issues, like Hoosier’s health or the environment.

Bartels, the Deputy Majority Whip for the House Republican Caucus, called the bill a “proactive approach to government oversight and reform.”

“The agencies do not represent their districts. They do not represent the state. It’s an agency that works for someone. So when we talk about checks and balances, we can make stricter rules and laws, but agencies shouldn’t have that power,” Bartels said.

A “no stricter than” regulation already exists for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Under the House Registration Act 1082 of 2016, IDEM must notify the Legislative Assembly when it intends to enact “stricter” rules than those enacted by the federal government and delaying the rule’s implementation until the end of the next legislative session, giving lawmakers time to kill the rule.

But the 2016 bill gave IDEM leeway to adopt emergency rules, take emergency measures, or temporarily modify existing policies and procedures or implement new ones.

Under HB 1100, IDEM and all other state agencies would in no way be allowed to make rules “stricter” than the federal rules. The bill, however, does not define what constitutes “stricter” or who would make that decision, which could land the legislation in lawsuits.

State agencies would also be required to obtain approval of the emergency rules by the state Attorney General, who would then be able to refuse the emergency rule.

Tim Maloney, senior director of policy for the Hoosier Environmental Council, said HB 1100 would negatively impact Hoosiers’ ability to make decisions that affect their own air and water quality.

“[House Bill 1100] would significantly limit the ability of our state agency to enact timely and appropriate state standards to protect public health in the environment,” Maloney said during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing. “Federal environmental laws that are delegated to the states for their implementation, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, give the states broad discretion in implementing these laws so that state regulators can make rules suitable for Indiana conditions and conditions.”

Maloney said the state of Indiana already has nearly a dozen checks and balances that restrict approval of rules and regulations if they are passed without ownership authority.

The Indiana Code Administrative Rules specify that the rules must “achieve their regulatory purpose in the least restrictive manner” and must justify any requirements or costs not warranted by state or federal law or rule. Agencies must also provide a tax impact statement for rules estimated to have an impact of $500,000 or more.

The proposed rules must also be submitted to the Attorney General and the Governor for review and approval. At this point, the governor has the option to kill the ruler.

Additionally, IDEM rules must be approved by the 16-member Environmental Rules Council before being sent out for review. Half of the board is made up of representatives from regulated industries, such as agriculture, manufacturing and utilities.

“The intention here is that if these things happen more often, we need to change. And if we need stricter and stricter rules, we can change them faster than the agency,” Bartels said.

“Tougher” legislation would have to face a tough gauntlet of business interests and lobbyists to be considered by Indiana lawmakers.

Bartels and other lawmakers have shown reluctance to support legislation that does not directly support business interests or partisan cultural issues, leaving the state of Indiana to rely primarily on state agencies to act on the health and the environment.

In the 2021 session of the Indiana General Assembly, lawmakers rejected bills standardizing the location of renewable energy, establishing radon testing in schools, establishing a blood testing program for alumni combatants or military personnel potentially exposed to PFAS chemicals, etc.

Lawmakers passed a developer-backed bill that gutted state wetland protections and an oil and gas industry-backed bill that blocks local governments from banning the use of fossil fuels in their jurisdiction.

They also passed a bill that allowed lawmakers to intervene during public health emergencies declared by the governor, in part to end restrictions that could be seen as restricting businesses, such as mask mandates and orders. sanitary. The bill could hamper efforts by state agencies to respond to emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Eric Holcomb filed a lawsuit claiming the bill was constitutional. A Marion County judge sided with Holcomb in October. The Indiana Supreme Court is currently reviewing the lawsuit.

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