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VOL. 37 | NO. 30 | Friday, July 26, 2013

State rules get tighter scrutiny

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam took office with a 45-day freeze on implementing any new government rules.

Since that time, the administration is using less dramatic and less direct ways of affecting the bureaucratic regulatory process.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/18MMxD0) reports there is an effort in the legislature to end a practice of automatically approving proposed rules promulgated by state departments, boards and commissions.

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, chairs a committee reviewing all rules. Previously, as a state representative, he served on the House companion review committee, when the lower chamber was under Democratic control.

"That committee was nothing more than a rubber stamp for rules," Bell said of his time on the House committee. "I think the word now has finally gotten through to all the departments that we are scrutinizing them much more thoroughl y than we used to."

Bell said some new rules are required, but dated ones need to go. Since Haslam took office, 33 rules have ended. Several involved agriculture and are no longer needed because of statute overhauls or better science.

Recently, agriculture officials eliminated rules that makers of milk and ice cream keep extensive records of the prices they charge and a whole system for certifying tomato, broccoli, cabbage and pepper plants.

A legislative committee last week also approved elimination of rules on strawberry plants and Irish potatoes.

Agriculture department attorney David Waddell told committee members the rules - all from the 1970s - were antiquated and no longer used by the department. One was a quarantine on bringing into Tennessee camellia plants from certain areas because of a blight. But Waddell said camellias are now bred to be blight-resistant.

The milk and ice cream rules did not reflect a legislative 2005 overhaul of a s tatute against below-cost sales of milk products.

Bell considers rules a "necessary evil of government" and said department rulemaking is sometimes needed to facilitate new statutes passed by the legislature.

"It's easy to say we have too many of them," Bell said.