Government Administration and Elections Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING THE PUBLICATION OF STATE AGENCY REGULATIONS.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Regulations and Review Committee
REASONS FOR BILL:
Present law does not require all state agencies to publish their respective regulations online. This bill would require the Department of Information Technology to work with the Commission on Official Legal Publications to develop an electronic program to allow each agency to publish their regulations online.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Stephen Ment, External Affairs Division, Judicial Branch: As members of the committee may be aware, Senator Andrew Roraback and Representative Carlo Leone, co-chairs of the Regulations Review Committee, convened a working group this past fall to study this issue. Since October, this group, which consists, in part, of representatives from the Judicial Branch, Department of Information Technology, the Secretary of the State's Office, the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), and various law librarians have met regularly to gain a better understanding of the current process and to begin charting a course for the future. This future consists not only of posting the final regulations on-line, but creating a mechanism through which the entire process – from drafting to completion – can be achieved electronically.
Representative Carlo Leone, 148th District: This is citizen-friendly legislation that will provide better access to government. Right now if you log onto the Connecticut General Assembly website you will find links to all our state statutes. However, if you want to find a state regulation, which can have the same effect of law, it is not that easy. Some agencies post their regulations and some do not. Even those agencies that post their regulations are not always current since they are constantly changing.
As Co-Chairman of the Regulations & Review Committee, I have seen firsthand the difficulties that arise with not having the data available. Our committee is at the tail end of the Regulation process and even we would benefit from having the knowledge of electronic data available before a regulation arises with concerns. Citizens, businesses, and even legislators have a hard time keeping up with all of the many laws we pass and it is that much harder to keep up with the regulations that carry out these laws, because there is little publicity when an agency proposes or adopts a regulation.
Requiring regulations to be posted on-line will, I hope, open up another aspect of our governmental process and provide transparency for the public. The more access we allow t regulations and the more people who are affected by them will be helped by reducing any confusion, and also the excuse that someone didn't know what the law was. As it currently stands out of fifty states, Connecticut currently ranks fourth to last when it comes to on-line access to our agencies regulations. We can change this statistic, and must do it in a way that capitalizes on best known practices from other states. Our committee has undertaken the creation of a task force, which began meeting in October of 07 collaborating with many of the parties involved in making regulations happen. We also requested and subsequently sent our administrator Pamela Booth to a conference regarding these very issues and this proposal. This bill is the culmination of these findings and our expectations of making this a reality.
First, any citizen of Connecticut or the public, the external client, should be able to view regulations since they are public documents that have the force of law. Second, and as important, we must create a system capable of addressing the needs of an internal “client” – the agency – the entity that must create, write, edit, and update regulations. The system must be secure, password and encryption protected, and formatted in a system language that can communicate and grow with present and future capabilities. Also, the Regulations and Review committee needs to be a partner an not a client and therefore should work collaboratively with the Department of Information Technology in moving forward.
Initially and ideally these regulations should be posted on-line by the Department of Information Technology on a website such as the one run by the Judicial Branch, since they currently have the skill set and cross knowledge reference of the many agencies of the state. As the online regulation system grows, we should provide a mechanism that will provide us to review and adjust our goals and capabilities as necessary to truly arrive at the final destination of electronic efficiency and ease.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Christine Horrigan, Government Director, League of Women Voters: Democratic government depends upon the informed and active participation of its citizens and requires that governmental bodies make public records accessible. As a matter of transparency and convenience. A such, state agencies should be required to post their regulations on their website.
Jesmin Basanti, Connecticut Business and Industry Association: This bill would give immediate, web-based access to all state regulations. As it currently stands, it is very hard for any business to find out what they can or cannot do, since agency regulations are not easily accessible.
Our business members agree that policy measures which increase business confidence in state government are not only a good thing but vital to a positive business climate. Connecticut companies want to comply with every pertinent state regulation governing their business operations, but finding and knowing these standards is often difficult.
By making the regulations available online, state government is encouraging confidence in the rules, promoting awareness of what state agencies are currently doing and minimizing the opportunity for ignorant mistakes. This bill will make it easier and more efficient for regulations to be found and known by businesses.
While some state agencies are ahead of the pack and have already published their regulations online, this bill will make sure it's the rule and not the exception.
Sharon Langer, Connecticut Voices for Children: This bill would:
● Require the Department of Technology, in consultation with the Commission on Official Legal Publications, to develop a computer program that would allow each state agency to post any published regulation on its website.
● Require each state agency to post its published regulations on it website starting October 1, 2009 and to publish effective regulations by January 1, 2010.
We would urge the committee to amend the legislation to require that any regulation under which an agency operates – whether in draft, proposed or final form – be published on an agency's website.
Steve Mirsky, Chair, Government Relations Subcomittee, Southern New England Law Librarians Association (SNELLA): Our members consistently advocate for free public access to government information and appreciate the fact that in addition to the Commission on Legal Publications, all state agencies issuing regulations would be responsible for posting them in electronic form on heir respective websites. This bill provides a good first step toward making public information quickly and reliably available to the legal community and general public.
Pamela Booth, Administrator, Legislative Regulation Review Committee (LRRC): Putting the regulations of state agencies online is good government. So many times I get calls from individuals who only know about a regulation after I have posted it on an agenda for the Regulation Review Committee. At that point they have lost their opportunity for input into the regulation, because public hearings are held at the agency level and the only notification of this opportunity is posted in the Connecticut Law Journal. How many of you who are not lawyers read the Connecticut Law Journal?
Unlike many states, Connecticut's regulatory process is complex and covers all branches of state government with the exception of the Comptroller's and Treasurer's office. It is a bit of a logistical nightmare and that's the short version. This entire process is currently paper driven. If you need a copy of proposed regulation, you must find the right person at the agency and get a copy, If the regulation has reached LRRC, we are happy to provide a copy for review.
Regulations are the backbone of many of the programs that you as legislators have made law and the public has the right to access them, but let's not just throw money at the problem. We must move forward in a thoughtful manner, providing an e-system that can grow with the needs of its users and the ever changing technology.
We need a well thought out e-regulations program that can give us the short term easy access to regulations that Connecticut's citizens deserve, but can down the road be expanded, and grow with the changing technology and user need.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Channen Paddyfote
Date: March 24, 2008