News and Events

The General Assembly Continues To Develop Administrative Law

On May 5, 2014, Governor O'Malley signed 200 bills into law.  The media has focused on the Maryland Minimum Wage Act, House Bill 295, which will raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by July 1, 2018.

But what about those other 199 bills? Many deal with matters of administrative law. Although the topics are broad, the trend appears to be the same. The General Assembly continues to vest more and more authority in, and focus more and more on, administrative agencies. Maryland lawyers need to be aware of this trend. As Professor Arnold Rochvarg, a leading authority on Maryland administrative law has explained: "Maryland Administrative Law is of relatively recent development and will continue to be a dynamic area of law into the foreseeable future." Arnold Rochvarg, Principles and Practice of Maryland Administrative Law, Preface, p. xv (2011).

For example, House Bill 657 expands the power of the State Board of Dental Examiners to discipline licensed dentists, dental hygienists, and applicants by authorizing discipline if the licensee or applicant acts in a manner that is "significantly inconsistent with accepted standards of care." H.B. 657, 2014 Regular Sess., (Md. 2014), Fiscal and Policy Note. Before this bill, dentists and dental hygienists were subject to discipline for acting in a professionally incompetent manner, but not for "acting in a manner inconsistent with established standards of professional care."  Id.

Another example, though on a completely different topic, is Senate Bill 586. This bill allows the State Board of Morticians and Funeral Directors to conduct "unannounced inspections of the preparation and body storage areas of a funeral establishment." S.B. 586, 2014 Regular Sess., (Md. 2014), Fiscal and Policy Note. Before this bill, the Board was required to announce all inspections.

In at least one instance, however, the General Assembly has streamlined the administrative process, rather than added to it. Before the passage of House Bill 1456, the Board of Review of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene ("DHMH") was required to hear and determine any appeal from "(1) a decision of the Secretary or any unit in DHMH for a contested case that is subject to judicial review under [the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA")]; (2) a decision of the Secretary or any unit of DHMH that is subject to judicial review under any provision of law other than APA; and (3) an action or inaction by a unit of DHMH for which the Secretary, by rule or regulation, provides for review by the board." H.B. 1456, 2014 Regular Sess., (Md. 2014), Fiscal and Policy Note. With the enactment of House Bill 1456, certain parties can bypass the Board of Review and petition for judicial review of a decision of DHMH without first exhausting administrative remedies.  H.B. 1456, 2014 Regular Sess., (Md. 2014).

Administrative law is the focus of many of the 200 bills that Governor O'Malley signed on May 5, 2014. Although administrative law may not receive the same attention as an increase in the minimum wage, individuals and companies that regularly deal with or are subject to the oversight of administrative bodies should review the new bills to determine whether and to what extent they will be affected. As the General Assembly expands the reach of administrative agencies, the body of Maryland administrative law will continue to develop. As a result, Maryland practitioners and their clients should be mindful of these developments.