Sunset Review

 

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 finances.

 

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 1Preliminary Evaluation:  Agencies 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 in the fall.  By December 15, the committee determines whether a full evaluation should be undertaken the following year.  Usually, legislation must be enacted to reauthorize agencies that are waived from further evaluation.

 

·         Phase 2Full Evaluation:  The presiding officers designate legislative committees responsible for reviewing each agency that will undergo full evaluation.  DLS undertakes a full evaluation on behalf of these committees and issues a report by October 31.

 

·         Phase 3Public Hearing and Legislative Action:  The designated committees hold a public hearing by December 14 at which DLS presents the findings and recommendations of the evaluation.  The committees must report their recommendations to the General Assembly by the twentieth day of the legislative session accompanied by the legislation necessary to implement them.  Usually legislative action must be taken to reauthorize the agencies that have undergone full evaluation and to implement other statutory recommendations.