The Minnesota Administrative Procedure Act (“Act”) is found in Chapter 14 of the Minnesota Annotated Statutes. The Act does not apply to agencies directly into legislative or judicial branches. The purposes of the Act are:
- to supervise powers and duties delegated to the agencies;
- to increase administrative agencies’ public responsibility;
- to abridge the process of judicial review of agency action as well as increase its simplicity and availability;
- to increase the fairness of agencies in their conduct of contested case proceedings;
- to increase public access to governmental information;
- to increase public participation in formulating administrative rules; and
- to guarantee a uniform minimum procedure.
An agency has the power to adopt, amend, modify or repeal rules only according to the procedures under the Act and pursuant to the authority delegated by law.
According to Minn. Stat. § 14.045, an agency cannot levy a civil penalty of $700 for a single violation unless specific statutory authority authorizes the agency to impose a fine in excess of that amount. An agency cannot levy a criminal penalty unless authorized by statute.
Minn. Stat. § 14.055 provides that a person can apply to an agency for a variance for a rule adopted by that agency. The agency can grant the petition for variances applied to the circumstances of the petitioner if the agency finds that:
- application of the rule as applied to the circumstances of the petitioner will not serve the purpose of the rule;
- the application of the rule to the petitioner will cause great hardship;
- variance from the rule will be consistent with public interest;
- variance will not prejudice the substantial legal or economic rights of any other person or entity.
Minn. Stat. § 14.09 permits a person to petition an agency to adopt, amend or repeal a rule. The petition must specify the specific action to be taken and the need for that action. Within 60 days after receiving the petition, the agency has to give a written reply as to its planned disposition of the petition.
Agencies must publish notices of intent to adopt rules or a notice of hearing within 18 months of the effective date of the law authorizing rules to be adopted, amended, or repealed. The agencies must prepare and make available for public review a statement regarding the need and reasonable of the proposed rule. The statement must be prepared under the rules adopted by the chief administrative law judge.
According to Minn. Stat. § 14.14, the agency must prepare a list of interested persons who have registered their names and must provide them with a 30 days’ notice before the date of hearing by U.S. mail or electronic mail.
A rule will become effective after the agency complies with all the requirements prescribed under the Act and five working days after the notice of adoption is published in the state register. If the rule adopted is same as the proposed rule, then publication can be made by publishing notice in the state register that the rule that has been adopted is same as the proposed rule and prior publication must be cited. If the rule adopted is different from the proposed rule, the portions of the adopted rule that is different from the proposed rule must be included in the notice of adoption together with a citation to the prior state register publication. The proposed rule can be modified if the modifications are supported by the data and if views submitted to the agency and will not substantially change the rule. The adopted rule becomes effective upon publication of the notice of adoption in the state register.
According to Minn. Stat. § 14.365, the agency must maintain the official rule-making record for every adopted rule and must make available this record for public inspection. The rule making record must contain:
- copies of all publications in the state register pertaining to the rule;
- the agency’s order adopting the rule;
- the official transcript of the hearing if one was held;
- all written petitions, and all requests, submissions, or comments received by the agency or the administrative law judge after publication of the notice of intent to adopt or the notice of hearing in the state register pertaining to the rule;
- documents required by applicable rules of the Office of Administrative Hearings, a copy of the adopted rule as filed with the secretary of state.
- the statement of need and reasonableness for the rule;
- the report and written statement of the administrative law judge, if any;
- the revisor’s certificate approving the form of the rule.
The agency must also maintain a rule-making docket containing the list of precise subject matter of each proposed rule under active consideration, contact details of agency personnel who can be approached by the public for information and each pending rule-making proceeding.
Minn. Stat. § 14.44 provides that any party can seek declaratory judgment before the court of appeals if the rule, its application or threatened application interferes with, threatens to interfere with or impairs the legal rights or privileges of the petitioner. The agency can also be made a party to the proceeding. The court can declare a rule invalid if the rule violates constitutional provisions or exceeds the statutory authority of the agency or was adopted without compliance with statutory rulemaking procedures.
In all contested cases, the agency officials will not make the final decision, until the report of the administrative law judge has been made available to parties to the proceeding for at least ten days. An opportunity has also been provided to each party adversely affected to file exceptions and present argument to a majority of the officials who are to render the decision.
Any party can seek judicial review of the final decision in a contested case. In a judicial review, the court can affirm the decision of the agency, remand the case for further proceedings or can reverse or modify the decision if the substantial rights of the petitioners are affected by the administrative decision. Final administrative decision will adversely affect the petitioner if the decision:
- violates constitutional provisions;
- exceeds statutory authority or jurisdiction of the agency;
- is arbitrary or capricious and is made upon unlawful procedure;
- is affected by other error of law;
- is unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted.