Author: Kevin Miller
Publication: Portland Press-Herald
WASHINGTON – Maine Sen. Angus King teamed up with a Missouri Republican on Tuesday to introduce a bill to create an independent commission charged with identifying outdated, duplicative or burdensome federal regulations.
The Regulatory Improvement Act of 2013 -sponsored by King and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. – would establish a bipartisan commission that would at first focus on regulations within a single sector.
Commission members would be appointed by congressional leaders and the president.
After hearing from the public and stakeholders, the commission would submit a list of recommendations for repealing, consolidating or streamlining specific regulations. Congressional committees would then review the recommendations but could not change them before the report was placed in front of the full House and Senate for consideration. Lawmakers could either accept to reject the package of recommendations but could not alter them.
“Business owners and entrepreneurs in Maine regularly tell me that the single greatest obstacle to their economic growth continues to be overly-burdensome regulations, but as thousands of more rules are promulgated every year, Congress isn’t taking any serious steps to address the mountain of regulations that already exist,” King said in a statement. “Our legislation would move that process forward by establishing an independent commission to identify and review outdated rules so that Congress can begin to deliver regulatory relief to our nation’s job creators.”
Regulatory reform is a perennial topic on Capitol Hill as well as in state houses across the country. And there has been no shortage of proposals for reducing red tape in the federal bureaucracy, both retroactively and prospectively. But many of those proposals have fallen victim to partisan differences.
Last year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted largely along party lines to pass the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act. A composite of several different proposals, the legislation would have, among other things, frozen “economically significant regulations” until unemployment fell below 6 percent and eased the regulatory requirements for federal construction projects. But the bill was never taken up in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is currently responsible for conducting cost-benefit analyses and other reviews of rules proposed by most federal agencies to gauge the rules’ potential impact on businesses or the regulated community.
There is a bipartisan push by some in Congress – including Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican – to also require those reviews of some rules proposed by independent regulatory agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.
Public Citizen, a nonpartisan group that bills itself as advocating for average citizens in Washington, criticized the King-Blunt bill as giving “big businesses another chance to push politicians to weaken existing environmental, health and safety rules.”
“Reviewing rules to see if they need to be adjusted is a good idea in theory, but this bill sets up a process with a pre-determined outcome of eliminating public protections,” Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen, said in a statement. “Any kind of oversight commission should have a much more balanced mission and be empowered to look for regulatory gaps – to help prevent the next contaminated food outbreak or oil spill.”
King’s office said they do not have a cost estimate for the bill but that the legislation authorizes “such sums as necessary” to create, staff and administer the commission. Large fiscal notes can sometimes become obstacles for legislation to move forward.