Wilson to seek more transparency in making of state laws, rules

Sen. Lynda Wilson has filed legislation for 2020 aimed at ending a lawmaking shortcut and improving how all three branches of state government go about making and interpreting the all-important administrative rules that are used to enforce many laws.

Her Senate Bill 6042 would prohibit the use of “title-only” bills, which are typically used to move legislation quickly through the Senate and House of Representatives late in a legislative session. Such bills are introduced with only titles and a single, general policy sentence, which keeps the public in the dark about their effect.

“As a member of the Senate budget committee I want to be able to alert my constituents when tax changes are proposed, and hear what they have to say – but that’s hard to do when these title-only bills blindside us all,” said Wilson, R-Vancouver.

Wilson pointed to one of the unnecessary new taxes approved by the Legislature’s Democrat majority this year as an example of why title-only bills should be banned.

That bill was filed with the title “relating to tax revenue” without a word about who would be taxed and by how much. On the final Friday of this year’s session, it suddenly turned into a brand new $339 million tax on banks, and two days later it was headed to the governor’s desk as the Legislature was adjourning for the year,” Wilson explained. “The taxpayers deserve more transparency than that from their government.”

Wilson is also looking forward to seeking legislative support for her SB 6044, called the “Three Branches Act,” which represents a new approach to the rulemaking that often follows the creation of laws.

“Agency rules have the force of law yet it’s harder than it should be for people to know where those rules come from and have faith they’ll be enforced correctly and evenly,” Wilson said. “My bill would simplify things so people – including lawmakers – can more easily see when a bill will also mean new rules. It would require agencies that make rules, like the Department of Ecology or the Department of Labor and Industries, to show specifically how their rules and their enforcement decisions match up with state law. And it would require the courts to be independent and impartial when they resolve disputes involving rules.”

While Wilson acknowledges it’s easier to explain the benefits of her “hunter pink” bill or vehicle license-fraud bill (both of which became law this year) than the good that would result from her Three Branches Act, she’s expecting the bill to draw bipartisan interest once the Legislature begins its 2020 session on Jan. 13.

“I’m confident my Democrat colleagues hear concerns about regulations just like Republicans do – especially from employers across our state, because administrative rules can be as much of a burden as taxes. The Washington Administrative Code contains more separate regulations than all but five other states, and it’s hard to believe all of those are really necessary; we can start turning things around by improving the way new regulations are developed. There’s only an upside to this bill.”