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JCAR acts as ‘quasi-judicial’ oversight on agency rulemaking

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The closely watched rulemaking process for medical marijuana will include “quasi-judicial” oversight by a bipartisan committee of elected officials.

The little-talked-about committee, consisting of 10 current lawmakers, is charged with reviewing rules and regulations filed by state agencies for compliance with Missouri law. The bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) — with five state senators and five state representatives as members — receives, on average, more than 1,800 rule filings per year to review.

“I think [JCAR] serves a good function: holding the state accountable,” Committee Vice Chair Sen. Wayne Wallingford told the Missouri Times.

“It is very different than any other committee that people are aware of, and this is a committee that is largely unknown. But it has a lot of power in terms of allowing or denying certain rules going into effect that are going to ultimately impact industries and the people of Missouri,” Committee Chair Rep. Nick Schroer told the Missouri Times.

A notable difference from most committees, members of JCAR only look at the legality of the rules and what the law states — not the intent behind the law, but the actual wording. Schroer noted the committee has to look at what is actually in the law.

The committee has the ability to invalidate a rule in the event there is an absence of statutory authority to promulgate the rule; the rule is in conflict with state law; or the rule is arbitrary and capricious. Any rule the committee rejects needs to ratified by the General Assembly and approved up by the governor.

“I am not tasked with whether or not I think the rule is something I would agree with on a policy level but does this agency have the authority to make this rule,” said Schroer. “I see JCAR as a quasi-judicial committee. Whereas other committees are dealing with policy and different pieces of legislation that aren’t necessarily going to make it across the finish line, JCAR is dealing with more of a procedural aspect of the law.”

Unlike committees that meet regularly or at sets times, JCAR only meets and hold hearings when necessary. Wallingford recalls the committee meeting only a couple of times in 2018.

“We meet as required depending upon the rules that state agencies promulgate…if they don’t meet the standards then the committee would gather together,” said Wallingford, who chaired the committee in 2018. “We don’t have too many [hearings] that come before the committee.”

In the coming months, JCAR will be looking at rules on a few hot topics. According to Schroer, it will be looking at the implementation of prevailing wage modifications and medical marijuana rules.

The Department of Labor is instituting new rules pursuant to a measure passed by the General Assembly in 2018. The committee is set to hold a hearing to determine if those new rules are within the authority of the department.

The Department of Health and Public Service is working on drafting rules in correspondence with the voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. Once those rules have been finalized, they will be submitted to JCAR for review.

“Probably the most notable topic that we will be dealing with in the next few months is medical marijuana,” said Schroer.