Administrative Procedure Act
In the State of Washington, the legislature enacts the 1988 Administrative Procedure Act (APA), intending – inter alia – to provide greater public access to administrative decision-making. The APA consists of 7 published Parts, as follows:
- General Provisions
- Public Access to Agency Rules
- Rule Making Procedures
- Adjudicative Proceedings
- Judicial Review and Civil Enforcement
- Legislative Review
- Technical Provisions
While numerous in its provisions, the focus of our organization’s attention is Part II: Public Access to Agency rules, particularly as it pertains to Declaratory Orders by State Agencies.
Some State Laws authorize respective State Agencies to create “Rules” or “Regulations” for performing their functions established by law. These rules or regulations can be any agency order, directive, or regulation of general applicability, or may be the State law itself. “Any person [meaning any individual, partnership, corporation, association, governmental subdivision or unit thereof, public or private organization or entity of any character, and another agency] may petition an agency for a declaratory order with respect to the applicability to specified circumstances of a rule, order, or statute enforceable by the agency.” In other words, if you want to know if a “rule, order, or statute enforceable by the agency” applies “to specified circumstances,” there is a formal procedure to petition the agency for a “Declaratory Order” “declaring the applicability of a statute, rule, or order in question to specified circumstances.”
For example, the Washington State Patrol (WSP)is responsible for enforcing traffic laws on Washington State Highways. Say you were a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over on a highway. The patrolman asks you for your operator’s license, and you tell him you don’t have one. The patrolman writes you a ticket for no valid operator’s license. You could thereafter petition the WSP — a state agency charged with enforcing traffic statutes on highways — for a Declaratory Order that the traffic laws enforceable by WSP do not require a passenger to have a valid operator’s license. The Declaratory Order “has the same status as any other order entered in an agency adjudicative proceeding,” meaning that you could take the Declaratory Order to the traffic Court and enter it as evidence so that your ticket gets dismissed.
Because ASA has the power “[t]o conduct investigations respecting compliance with applicable laws and regulations,” we can petition a State Agency for a Declaratory Order on behalf of public persons. If you would like to obtain a Declaratory Order from a State Agency, please contact Mike Matthews at mfm@ASA-WA.US.
Click here for link to full text of 1988 Administrative Procedure Act.