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 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.