Backdoor Deregulation

Article excerpt

The revolution continues. Two House panels last week drafted major changes in the way government writes rules to enforce the laws passed by Congress. They would change the very essence of the regulatory process - much for the worse.

The House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee approved a bill freezing all work on federal regulations through June 30, 1995. Some want to extend the freeze to Dec. 31. The freeze would apply to any regulatory work that began after Nov. 20, 1994. The formulation of regulations mandated by existing laws would be put on hold except for rules addressing "imminent threats to health and safety."

This is deregulation on the cheap, without thought or study. To hold down costs to business, virtually all regulations would be stopped in their tracks until the GOP majority in Congress decides which ones it wants to repeal.

This is bad policy. If a regulation is wrong, the public comment period is the right occasion to address it. If that is insufficient, Congress should amend the specific law authorizing what it sees as a flawed regulation. The administration rightly opposes the freeze. Missouri's Sen. Christopher S. Bond is one of its prime sponsors in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the House Science and Commerce Committee is working on a bill that would essentially gut the regulatory process. One measure would mandate a cost-benefit analysis for every regulation involving more than $25 million in costs.

Cost-benefit analysis is fine as long as it is done intelligently and with due regard to its effects on the goals of the law underlying the regulation. Indeed, the administration issued an executive order in 1993 requiring all regulations costing more than $100 million to be so reviewed. …