Dec 17, 2014 - 3:15am

4 Steps to a Working Regulatory System


Former Senior Vice President, Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs

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Illustrations: Victor Scott/© U.S. Chamber of Commerce

It’s no secret that our nation’s regulatory system is broken.

Research professors and university fellows talk about the lack of transparency and backroom rulemaking, and entrepreneurs across the country cite difficulties in growing their business.

We’ve heard about the lack of accountability from the Small Business Administration (calling out the EPA for ignoring its own research). We’ve heard about “skyrocketing” compliance costs and regulations that “squash innovation” from President Obama.

And U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue has underscored the need for reform in our regulatory system over and over… and over again.

The good news is that we can fix this. Here are four commonsense, bipartisan steps Congress can follow to fix our system.

Congress, get out your notebooks.
 

1.  RESTORE ACCOUNTABILITY

Agencies should be able to demonstrate that new rules with the largest impact on communities and businesses are truly needed, are the least disruptive way to achieve their goal, and will create meaningful improvements.

Even though this is required by law, agencies often do not perform this basic analysis.

What can Congress do? Pass the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would reform the regulatory process by increasing transparency during rule development, allowing public access to the data, and making agencies consider alternatives that achieve their objective at a lower cost.

2.  GREATER TRANSPARENCY

Agencies should be open with the public about the information and data used in rulemaking and allow citizens the right to ask tough questions.

Yet this isn’t happening.

By passing the Sunshine Act, Congress would require federal agencies to give the public early notification when a special interest group is preparing to sue the agency to force regulations to be written. This would help shine a light on secret settlement agreements between government agencies and powerful special interest groups that are not revealed to the public until after the deal has been made.

3.  MEANINGFUL PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN THE REGULATORY PROCESS

GAO found that about 35% of major regulations are issued without the mandatory public comment period.

Agencies should be required to inform the public of pending regulatory decisions on the most costly and disruptive rules earlier in the process, share the data and economic models the agency uses to develop the regulations, and listen to the voices of people and communities who will be affected by allowing adequate time for public comments.

The Regulatory Accountability Act would allow increased participation in the public commenting process and stop the rulemaking process from being one-sided

4.  GUARANTEE A SAFE BUT SWIFT PERMITTING PROCESS

In the permitting process, there are no hard deadlines for environmental reviews and legal challenges, allowing projects to be killed, delayed, or litigated endlessly.  Lack of deadlines for legal challenges or for action and coordination between agencies has led to critical energy and infrastructure projects being delayed for years or killed outright.

If passed by Congress, the Federal Permitting Improvement Act/RAPID Act would empower a lead agency to manage environmental reviews and coordinate work between cooperating agencies. It would also set a maximum deadline to complete the review process.

Regulatory reform is a bipartisan issue, making it exactly the kind of effort Americans expect from our new Congress in 2015. The American people deserve a regulatory system that works for them not against them.

Let’s get our rules right. Send a letter to Congress to support the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015.

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About the Author

About the Author

Former Senior Vice President, Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs

Kovacs is the former Senior Vice President for the Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.