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A decades-old issue was resurrected in the Capitol on Tuesday when a Senate committee approved legislation requiring state agencies to submit major regulations to the Legislature for review.

Business groups lined up behind Senate Bill 688, while environmental and consumer groups strenuously opposed the measure in the Senate Governmental Organization Committee.

The bill is being carried by the committee chairman, Los Angeles Democrat Rod Wright, and would apply to any regulations with an impact of $10 million or more on regulated businesses.

Wright echoed the complaints of business groups that unelected state agency administrators issue rules that have heavy financial impacts and thus discourage job-creating investment. A running controversy over regulations issued by the state Air Resources Board, aimed at reducing greenhouse has emissions, is the most recent blowup over agency rules.

The issue, however, goes back at least three decades when Jerry Brown, during his first stint as governor, faced legislation that would have given the Legislature the power to overturn administrative regulations. The showdown was averted by an agreement to create the Office of Administrative Law, an arm of the governor's office, that would review proposed regulations for their compliance with enabling legislation.

Wright's measure wouldn't give the Legislature the power to overturn rules, but would delay implementation of those with $10-plus million in impact for at least a year after initial proposal, unless there's an emergency.

The measure cleared the Senate committee on an 8-1, bipartisan vote, but as it faces stiff opposition from environmental and consumer groups, its fate is uncertain.

While approving Wright's measure, the committee deep-sixed another bill on the same subject by Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rosevillle. His measure, Senate Bill 591, would require state agencies to determine how many rules they have promulgated and reduce the total by 33 percent. Gaines made much the same argument as Wright about the effect of regulations on business and had much the same support base but was on the short end of a 5-6 vote.


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