- How do I know if the Board is making a change to its rules?
Under the Montana Administrative Procedure Act, any state entity must issue a public notice that it is about to change its administrative rules. There are three ways to make a rules change:
- propose new rules
- amend existing rules
- repeal (eliminate) existing rules
Public notices about rulemaking are posted on the Board’s website and are mailed to interested parties who have identified themselves as such to the Board. Rulemaking notices also are available through the Montana Administrative Register at the Montana Secretary of State’s office, where all administrative rules for the state are housed. The Secretary of State’s website for administrative rules is www.mtrules.org. You can use that website to view rules and subscribe to the Montana Administrative Register, among other things.
If the Board wishes to undertake a rules change, it first must post a Notice of Proposed Amendment/Adoption/Repeal, or Proposal Notice. This notice will show the existing rule language and note text to be deleted as
stricken and new text as underlined. The Board is not allowed to simply show the amended rule in its final form.
Then, following a public comment period, which usually includes a public rules hearing held by the Department, the Board must post a Notice of Adoption that notes the Board’s responses to public comments and includes any changes to the original proposal, using the same
stricken and underlined format.
2. How can I express my opinion about a rule change?
Each Proposal Notice must contain information about how to submit a comment on the rules change proposal. In addition, a public hearing is held at the Business Standards Division where individuals can make oral presentations and submit written comment.
Written comments are accepted in any form until a deadline date established in the Notice.
All public comments are presented to the Board at a public meeting, at which time the Board responds to the substance of all comments received.
3. How will I know when a new or amended rule is in effect?
Once the Board votes to adopt a rules change, the Notice of Adoption is prepared and filed with the Secretary of State. The rule changes are effective the day after the final Notice of Adoption is published by the Secretary of State, unless an alternative effective date is provided specifically by statute or stated in a rule. At that point, the rule is in place and enforceable. This also is when the Notice of Adoption is posted on the Board website and sent to licensees and interested parties.
4. When can I see the actual new rule(s) in new, amended form?
Not until the Secretary of State updates and publishes the ARM (Administrative Rules of Montana) with the amended rule(s) on its website and in hard copy. The SoS published rule changes quarterly but, because of the volume of work at the SoS and the nature of the rule publishing calendar, it may be several months between the Board’s adoption of new rules and their publication on the web.
Until that point, the only way to assess any new rule is to compare the former version with the Notice of Proposal and Notice of Adoption. Board members, Board staff and other Department of Labor and Industry employees are prohibited from providing the public with a “clean” and official version of the new rule and must, instead, refer individuals to the Secretary of State website and the rule notices.
5. Can I be held accountable for violating a new rule before it’s available in its final form?
Yes. Once the Notice of Adoption has been published by the Secretary of State, the rule is enforceable, even though it is not yet published in its final form in the ARM.
6. Let’s say there’s a new or amended rule that’s critical to my practice as a professional. If I must follow it—or hold others accountable to it—but it’s not yet published on the Secretary of State’s website, can I take the rule notices and make my own “clean” version of the amended rule and rely on that until the official version is published?
The Board understands that licensees or other interested parties may be keenly interested in the final language of a new rule for multiple reasons, including their desire to comply with it or hold others to it. And while it discourages individuals from creating their own unofficial “clean copies” from the parts provided by existing rules and rule notices, it cannot prohibit individuals from doing so.
Just be aware that no rule is truly “official” unless it is published by the Secretary of State. It is possible, if unlikely, that a rule might undergo a change during SoS review to correct typographical errors or resolve small deviations from standard rulemaking structure and language. Nobody should rely on an unofficial rule or distribute it to others.
NOTE: Board members and Department employees may not distribute any unofficial versions of rules to the public and must—emphasize MUST—refer the public to the Secretary of State website for the official versions of rules.