What should a rule making board look like?

SB 130, Senator Gard’s proposed legislation to consolidate the four environmental rule making boards into a single environmental rules board with 17 members, will be heard in the Senate Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee on Thursday January 12 at 1:30 PM in Room 233 of the Statehouse.

The new structure proposed in the bill is a significant change from where we are now.  Streamlining government can be a good thing, and the idea of a single board has a lot of merit.  Based on the nature of the programs, I suspect the majority of the rules considered by a consolidated board will be air pollution control rules.

There are three things about this proposed restructuring that I would change.

  1. Reduce the number of board members from 17 down to 7 or 9.  With a 17 person board, each individual board member’s vote has less value, which creates a disincentive for that person to really commit to being an engaged and effective board member.  A smaller board will have more engaged members and this will improve the quality of their discourse.
  2. Eliminate the five ex officio positions on the board or at the least strip them of their voting power.  Having nearly one third of board be employees of the state greatly diminishes the role of the remaining board members and consolidates too much power into the hands of the administration.
  3. The Commissioner of IDEM – and by this I mean any Commissioner of IDEM, not just the current one – should not be a member of the board.  The Commissioner should be the servant of the board, not a defacto master of the board.  You might have an appointed chair of the board, but in reality, the Commissioner will end up running the show.  That is not going to lead to an independent or diverse evaluation of the rules being offered up before the board.

There’s a companion version of this legislation embedded in a more lenghthy bill in the House.  You’ll find nearly identical language to consolidate the four boards into a single board in HB 1002.