With generally strong backing from the business lobby, Tennessee legislators made a theme this year of curbing the power of state departments and agencies while enhancing the General Assembly’s oversight of their rules and regulations.
The move with perhaps the greatest long-range consequences came with passage of HB2068 by Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville.
The bill, signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam despite concerns from several of the departments he oversees, makes it more difficult to promulgate rules and regulations. And it makes clear that the Legislature, acting through the Government Operations Committees of the House and Senate, has absolute authority to reject any rule that a majority want to overturn.
As Daniel put it: “The primary effect of this bill will be to eliminate the liberal construction of the Administrative Procedures Act.” Currently, the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA) contains provisions that say, more or less, that if there’s a doubt about the authority of an administrative agency, the dispute will be resolved in favor of the agency having the authority to act.
The bill effectively flips that. The presumption now is that the agency does not have authority and must establish that the rule is necessary through “convincing” evidence. During debate, Democrats said the move is an unprecedented revision to the UAPA, a model law that has been adopted to govern administrative operations in all states, though each state can make modifications.