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: 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 2 – Full 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 3 – Public 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