Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Regulatory Reason

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Regulatory Reason

Article excerpt

The Clinton Administration has issued a new order to streamline federal rulemaking, but on Capitol Hill, calls continue for tougher action against regulatory overkill.

President Clinton doesn't believe our federal regulatory system works very well. It says so in the first paragraph of his recently signed Executive Order 12866, which outlines how his Administration will oversee future rulemaking by federal agencies.

In "Regulatory Planning and Review," Clinton charges that the government has failed to offer a regulatory system that "protects and improves |the American people's~ health, safety, environment, and well being and improves the performance of the economy without imposing unacceptable or unreasonable costs on society."

According to Thomas Hopkins of the Rochester Institute of Technology, a conservative think tank, regulations now cost the U.S. around $500 billion annually. Other estimates put the burden even higher. Clinton characterizes his new order as a way to "lighten the load for regulated industries and make government regulations that are needed more efficient."

Under Executive Order 12866, Vice President Gore is given responsibility for coordinating regulatory policy, planning, and review. Each year, the Vice President is directed to meet with various Executive Branch officials such as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and the heads of federal agencies to develop regulatory priorities and coordinate activities.

Beginning in 1994, each agency will prepare a Regulatory Plan which will include a "summary of each planned significant regulatory action." Significant regulations are those that are expected to cost $100 million or more, or present unique legal, policy, or budgetary problems. Agencies are supposed to identify alternatives to be considered and preliminary estimates of the costs and benefits of the regulations. A "Unified Regulatory Agenda" of these plans will be published annually in October.

The Executive Order reaffirms the role of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) as the central agency charged with review of regulations. For significant regulations, agencies must provide OIRA with the text of the draft regulatory action, an explanation why the regulation is needed, and an assessment of costs and benefits of both the regulation and feasible alternatives.

Mindful of the long delays that occurred during OMB review of regulations in the Reagan and Bush Administrations, the President requires that OIRA complete its review in 90 days of receiving information from agencies. Agencies may request one extension of 30 days for this review. OIRA reviews predating this order must be completed within 45 days.

When impasses develop between OMB and an agency, the President or Vice President will step in to resolve them.

Sunshine, Sunset

EO 12866 provides "sunshine" components that establish a paper trail for all individuals, agencies, or businesses providing any input in the rulemaking process. The order includes requirements that agency personnel be invited to any meeting between OIRA and interested persons not employed by the Executive Branch, that OIRA provide to agencies any written material and a record of any oral communications from such persons, and that OIRA maintain a public log of all such communications.

While trying to streamline the development of new rules, the Executive Order also seeks to root out existing regulations that are unnecessary or "duplicative or inappropriately burdensome." By next spring, federal agencies must submit to OIRA a program for reviewing significant regulations to determine whether they should be modified or eliminated.

Greasing the Skids?

Conservative congressional members such as Sen. Don Nickles (R, Okla.) say the new Executive Order is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to permit more costly regulations onto the books and boost big government's ranks. …

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