February 02, 2015

Reining In Federal Regulation

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Duplicative, often burdensome federal regulations imposed on the private sector continue to stifle economic growth and discourage innovation.  An efficient and accountable regulatory structure is of paramount importance and fundamental to ensuring taxpayer dollars are being used properly.  Regulators must make our communities and small businesses-those most impacted-a central part of the decision-making process. 

The non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported that 409 "major" final rules were published in the five-year period from 2009-2013 alone.  A "major" rule is a federal regulation that is likely to result in an annual $100 million effect on the economy; significantly increase in costs or prices for consumers; and adversely affect competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation or the ability of U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises. 

Given the magnitude of the potential impact, many Americans share my hope that these rules, like other federal regulation, remain rare and well-reasoned.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  "Major" rules are just one type of the 2,500-4,500 final federal rules that CRS found are published each year.  Congress has passed legislation attempting to limit federal regulation.  But, clearly, more must be done.  An economy cannot get on sound footing while being stymied by federal regulation.

That is why I recently co-sponsored Senator Rand Paul's (R-Kentucky) Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act.  S. 226 would require proposed rules and regulations put forth by federal agencies with an estimated economic impact of at least $100 million be subject to congressional approval before taking effect.  Under current law, the Congressional Review Act allows regulation to take effect unless Congress acts to overturn the rule with a joint resolution of disapproval, which the President can veto.  In contrast, the REINS Act would require the enactment of a joint resolution of approval before any major rule could be finalized, increasing much-needed transparency in the federal rulemaking process. 

Further, the REINS Act would enable better public oversight of "major" rules by requiring longer time periods for Americans to review and comment on new regulations.  The legislation would also require delayed enforcement of legally challenged interim final rules, and it would address agencies using rule-making mechanisms to sidestep broad public participation in the development of regulations.  Also of significant importance, the legislation would provide for the cleanup of current overregulation by requiring agencies to reassess current regulations and identify for repeal those that are outdated, ineffective or excessively burdensome. 

Currently, the federal rulemaking structure provides tremendous autonomy to federal agencies with no real congressional oversight, allowing agencies to propose and finalize thousands of regulations each year, many of them controversial, without a full public discussion or involvement, or disclosure of the data supporting a rule.  According to CRS, there were 26,417 pages of final rules published in the Federal Register in 2013.  This increasing wave of federal regulations that Americans must sift through and comply with must be controlled. 

This bureaucracy is an unnecessary drain on our economy that impedes our nation's growth.  As part of the solution for improving our nation's economic footing, I will continue to advocate for eliminating unreasonable federal regulation that hinders the ability of American businesses to expand and increase jobs.  We must remove the excessive layers of regulation that are not providing benefits but are just bogging down innovation. 

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