Governor Brad Little


The 81% of Idaho's administrative rules that are up for reauthorization were published online Wednesday.

The state has 8,278 pages and 736 chapters of administrative rules detailing how agencies implement the state's myriad statutes. Many of them are fairly mundane or technical, but some of them deal with how agencies approach controversial subjects such as vaccinations and school curriculum.

While the Legislature typically passes a bill at the end of the session extending all of the rules until July 1 of the next year, this year it didn't, due to a disagreement between the House and Senate over a House proposal to require both chambers of the Legislature rather than just one to approve any new rules. As a result, all the rules will expire July 1.

Gov. Brad Little's office reviewed the rules and decided to ax 139 chapters of rules, get rid of sections within another 79 chapters, rewrite and simplify 31 chapters and extend the rest as-is as temporary proposed rules. The Legislature will take them up when it reconvenes in 2020 and decide whether to reauthorize them. Overall, more than 34 percent of the rules are being either eliminated or simplified.

While not reauthorizing the rules was a result of gridlock rather than planning, many conservatives have welcomed the situation as an opportunity to get rid of unnecessary regulations. The rather unusual situation has drawn favorable attention from right-leaning opinion writers both in Idaho and in some national publications.

"The Legislature’s decision to do nothing is more or less the product of a spat between the House and the Senate, but the end result is still fantastic," Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman wrote in a column in April. "Gov. Brad Little’s administration will need to reinstate each regulation, one program at a time, hopefully leaving a lot on the cutting room floor."

"Oh, gridlock! Glorious gridlock!" National Review's Kevin Williamson started a May column about what happened. "Is there anything it can’t do?"

"Bold action could not only make Idaho the undisputed champion of economic competitiveness within the U.S., but inspire other states as well," James Freeman wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

While the total cost for the process isn't yet available, publishing all the rules is expected to cost $25,000, said Little's press secretary Marissa Hyer. After lawmakers adjourned for the year in April after an often-acrimonious and longer-than-usual session, Democrats pointed to the impasse as an example of the Republican caucus' dysfunction.

“It is unfortunate but perhaps fitting that we are leaving the building today on one final note of failure by the majority party,” Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Ilana Rubel, R-Boise, said at a news conference shortly after adjournment.

Little has made cutting red tape and reducing regulations one of his signature issues, pushing for easing occupational licensing requirements and signing an executive order earlier this year requiring state agencies to identify for elimination or simplification two existing rules for every new one they propose. Little's office said in a news release Wednesday he viewed the expiration of the rules as "an opportunity to reset Idaho's regulations."

"Since April, state agencies hosted more than 40 public meetings to identify which rules to reauthorize or allow to expire," Little's office said. "The Division of Financial Management publicly posted the list of rules identified for expiration and solicited public input. Nearly all public comments received suggested additional rules to cut."

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.