When the federal rule-making process first went into effect, Missouri native Harry Truman was president.
Truman left office more than 60 years ago. Yet America’s regulatory procedures have barely changed since then. Missouri’s legislators should help give them a tuneup. The federal rule-making process needs to better suit the dynamic, fast-paced nature of the modern economy.
Reform should start with increasing transparency by requiring regulatory agencies to publish early notices of proposed rules. Just that simple tweak would provide the public substantially more say in process.
Regulatory overhaul should also totally eliminate or ban rule-making by “interpretation of a rule,” as has been done by the Department of Labor. This process completely bypasses any congressional or public review, comment or input into a bureaucratic decision having tremendous negative effect on American job creators.
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Next, Washington should create a bipartisan commission to review regulations that are more than 10 years old. This body could then make recommendations to Congress about how to improve old rules deemed unnecessary or ineffective.
Such a commission would ensure that regulations keep up with today’s fast-moving economy. Right now, the regulatory system isn’t nimble enough to handle modern innovation. A new commission would provide regulatory flexibility, helping officials quickly identify and update any rules that haven’t kept up with the times.
Third, regulators should be required to conduct extensive cost/benefit analyses into any proposed rules that could cost the economy $100 million or more. Currently, reviews of this kind aren’t routine or standardized. As a result, regulators run the risk of imposing rules with costs that far exceed their expected benefits, or needlessly deplete funds. A mandatory review process could help prevent costly mistakes.
Comprehensive cost-benefit analyses have already saved giant sums.
Consider the Environmental Protection Agency’s phase-out of lead in gasoline. Back in the 1970s, the EPA realized that lead in gasoline was harming new cars, and more alarmingly, human health. Heeding a two-year cost/benefit analysis, the EPA only required that the gasoline industry as a whole — not individual refineries — meet lead standards. The agency also implemented a buffer policy that gave refineries some leeway in meeting increasingly stringent standards.
This marketplace flexibility saved hundreds of millions of dollars — the buffer mechanism alone saved more than $220 million while allowing American industry an appropriate amount of time to meet the new standards.
Standardizing analyses like this in today’s regulatory process could help generate similar returns.
Still though, some legislators and regulatory officials claim that altering the way rules are formed would needlessly slow down the regulatory process and, consequently, prevent federal officials from taking necessary steps to protect Americans.
In my opinion, that thinking is totally backward. Modifying current protocols would simply ensure that regulations actually fit with the modern economy. And by giving average Americans greater voice in the rule-making process, these changes would help guarantee that new rules actually serve their intend purposes.
There is broad, bipartisan support for reforms like these. Both the American Bar Association and President Barack Obama’s Jobs Council have explicitly said that the regulatory system should be revamped. During his State of the Union address earlier this year, the president received applause from both Democrats and Republicans for declaring that “there is red tape that needs to be cut.”
New legislation that updates federal rule-making procedures could provide those scissors. Missouri congressional representatives should help develop these reforms and shepherd them through Congress.
Dave Griggs of Columbia is the owner of Dave Griggs’ Flooring America. He is the current secretary and two-term past chairman of Regional Economic Development Inc. He is a former Boone County commissioner.