The Maryland Program Evaluation Act, enacted in 1978,
established a system for periodic legislative review of the regulatory,
licensing, and other governmental activities of the Executive Branch of State government.
The act requires the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) to evaluate
certain State agencies according to a revolving statutory schedule. Almost 70
agencies are subject to evaluation. These agencies include professional and
occupational licensing boards, regulatory agencies and commissions, and
advisory or special function agencies.
This evaluation activity is more commonly known as
"sunset review" because the agencies subject to review usually have
termination dates in their authorizing statutes. Typically, legislative action
must be taken to reauthorize them. The first series of evaluations served as a
tool to eliminate or "sunset" obsolete agencies. Generally, however,
the focus of evaluations has shifted from whether there is a continued need for
State regulation or involvement to whether the agency has complied with
statutory policy objectives. These evaluations also determine the
accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness of agency operations and
The process for sunset review is established in Title
8, Subtitle 4, of the State Government Article with three distinct phases
as shown below.
Phase 1 – Preliminary Evaluation: Entities subject to sunset
review typically undergo preliminary evaluation three years before their
scheduled termination date. DLS conducts these evaluations during the interim
and makes recommendations to the Legislative Policy Committee (LPC) by December
15. By the tenth day of the legislative session, LPC must approve or
disapprove the recommendations of each preliminary evaluation submitted by DLS.
Usually, legislation must be enacted to reauthorize entities that were waived
from further evaluation.
Phase 2 – Full Evaluation: If LPC approves DLS’ recommendation
for a full evaluation (or requests a full evaluation of an entity that DLS has
recommended be waived from further evaluation), DLS conducts a full evaluation
the following interim. Five select health occupations boards are subject to
direct full evaluation. Legislation also occasionally requires specific
entities to undergo a direct full evaluation. All full evaluations are
conducted two years prior to the termination date. DLS must complete the
reports by December 1.
Phase 3 – Public Hearing and Legislative Action: The committees of
jurisdiction must hold a public hearing on each full sunset evaluation by the tenth
day of the legislative session at which DLS presents the findings and
recommendations of the evaluation. The committees must send a report to the
General Assembly by the twentieth day of the legislative session accompanied by
legislation to accomplish the committee’s recommendations. Usually, legislative
action must be taken to reauthorize the agencies that have undergone full
evaluation and to implement other statutory recommendations.