The Legislature wrapped its 2017-18 Session early this morning under a national spotlight, as lawmakers considered a host of high-profile law changes during a one-day extraordinary session.
Lost among the more controversial provisions were several changes to executive branch agency operations under AB 1070/SB 884. Among other requirements, state agencies will be required to submit broadly defined “guidance documents”—any document short of a promulgated administrative rule that interprets or implements state law—for publication in the Administrative Register for a public comment period. Agencies will then be required to retain written comments received, and to publish explanations for any actions taken at variance from a guidance document, once in place. Guidelines that do not follow these procedures within six months will be considered rescinded.
On a tight timeline and working in partnership with the System Board, the District Boards Association reached out to allies in the Capitol on Monday and Tuesday this week, arguing for an exemption for public higher education agencies. The System Board oversees only technical colleges, not private citizens or businesses, which the legislation is intended to protect. Additionally, the System office engages in continuous improvement and communication with college leadership around issues such as curriculum development, grant guidelines, facilities development, and other issues. Simply stated, the new requirements would have bogged down communications with the colleges to an untenable degree, inhibiting the System Board’s responsiveness and nimbleness as it exercises its oversight functions.
We received confirmation this morning that Senate Substitute Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 884, passed overnight, included our requested changes. The Assembly concurred in the Senate version of the bill just hours later. WTCS, UW System, and the Department of Employee Trust Funds are exempt from the “guidance document” provisions, as well as a separate requirement that all policy statements carry a notice of underlying statutory authority. The extraordinary session bills now head to the Governor’s desk for signature.
The Senate Substitute Amendment, with relevant sections on pages 28 and 31, can be found here.
As always, thank you to our partners at the System Board, at the technical colleges, and in the Legislature for their support and assistance in this effort.