Fine Print: Senate Bill S-2014

Proposed legislation would make it possible to alter regulations once they've been adopted, without starting the entire rulemaking procedure from the beginning

Synopsis: Allows state agencies to make substantial changes to rules upon adoption, instead of issuing a new notice of proposal, a step that can delay approval of new regulations by months.

Sponsor: Sen. Steven Oroho (R-Sussex)

What it aims to do: Streamline the rule-making process, which critics say makes it difficult for companies to thrive in New Jersey’s business climate. Currently, if a state agency makes substantial changes to a proposed rule, it essentially has to start the process over from the beginning by issuing a new notice of rule-making. If this bill passes, the agency could make big changes by issuing a public notice and holding a new comment period.

How it came about: The proposal emerged from the Christie administration’s Red Tape Review Commission, which issued a report this spring recommending steps to streamline rules and regulations to improve the state’s business climate. Oroho served on the commission, which found it is difficult for a state agency to alter a rule proposal, even when public comments expose significant flaws in the rule. As a result, state agencies, the commission said, may ignore valid and legitimate comments simply to finalize the rule.

Why it raises concerns: Critics say the bill eliminates public process and the input of the public on rules that affect environment and health and safety. They argue that this legislation allows agencies to rewrite a rule and change everything after the public comment period is closed, and then adopt the rule with those changes. “This would be like Dick Cheney rewriting the energy policies behind closed doors with BP and Halliburton,” said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.

Prospects: With bipartisan support, it is likely the bill will wind up on the governor’s desk by early next year.