Its call for term limits is getting the spotlight, but the
"Contract with America's" fine print on curbing regulatory powers
may pack an even bigger wallop for government.
Buried in the House Republicans' 10-bill package are provisions
that could make it vastly harder for federal agencies to issue
regulations, especially new environmental rules in cases where the
need may not be urgent.
One of the proposals - forcing the government to pay
compensation if a regulation harms property values - is shaping up
as a key environmental battle in the new Congress. Environmental
advocates contend that the contract amounts to a dangerous attack
on pollution control.
"What they propose would undermine the government's ability to
carry out federal laws in a significant way," said Gary D. Bass, an
analyst with OMB Watch, an environmental group in Washington that
focuses on federal spending and on the Office of Management and
The regulatory changes are buried in the contract's bill No. 8,
the Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act. The bill is best known
for proposing a cut in the capital-gains tax. Other provisions
Set up a private-property compensation program that would
require government to reimburse landowners when protection of
wetlands, endangered species, shoreline or any regulation reduced
the value of property by more than 10 percent.
Place curbs on "unfunded mandates" by barring new rules unless
federal agencies provided money to state and local governments to
Require the government to conduct two kinds of studies before
issuing any regulation that would affect more than 100 people. One
study would look at risks of pollution. Another would weigh the
costs and benefits of regulations. Both types of studies would have
to be reviewed by panels of experts outside government.
The contract also calls for a ceiling on how much the
government can spend on regulations that carry out federal laws.
Under one provision, the government's spending for regulations
could not exceed 5 percent of the gross domestic product - the
country's economic output. Republican sponsors also may seek an
immediate cut of 6.5 percent in the government's regulatory budget.
Most of the provisions were drawn up before Republicans scored
their startling successes in the elections, giving them control of
the House for the first time since President Dwight D. Eisenhower
was in the White House.
`A Lot Of Thought'
Brian Gunderson, a top aide to Rep. Richard Armey, R-Texas, the
incoming House majority leader, said the Republicans remained
committed to pushing the curbs on regulatory power with minimal