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House Passes Bill Demanding Greater Rulemaking Transparency

Joe Mont | February 27, 2014

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that strives to “create a more open and transparent regulatory process” by requiring the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to publish information about pending regulations and related cost-benefit studies online. It would also require federal agencies to update regulatory agendas on a monthly basis.

The All Economic Regulations Are Transparent (ALERT) Act, H.R. 2804, was introduced in July 2013 by Rep. George Holding (R-NC) and referred to the Committees on Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform, where it advanced by a vote of 19-15 earlier this month. It went on to pass with a 236-179 vote in the House, with unanimous Republican support and 10 votes from Democrats.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, an unlikely prospect given the split along party lines and criticism from the White House, it would require federal agencies to submit monthly updates to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs on rules the agencies expect to propose or finalize in the following year. Updates must include a summary of the rule, its objective and legal basis, a schedule for completion, as well as cost and economic impact information

The bill also requires OIRA to publish two annual assessments of rulemaking. One, published in the Federal Register, must provide information on the regulatory activity in the previous year, including the number of rules issued, deregulatory action taken, and information from the monthly agency updates. The second assessment, published online, must include information on the regulatory review process in the past year, including cost-benefit analyses and the number of OIRA reviews. The bill also expands the Small Business Advocacy Review Panel process ad require agencies to thoroughly analyze the economic effect their rules have on small businesses.

“NFIB commends members of the House who voted to cut burdensome red tape and provide much-needed flexibility to the federal regulatory system,” National Federation of Independent Business President Dan Danner said in a statement following the vote.

Also supporting the bill is the National Association of Manufacturers. “Dollars spent by manufacturers on compliance with unnecessarily cumbersome or duplicative regulations are dollars not spent on capital investment or new employees,” said Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse. “While appropriate regulations have clear benefits, Washington has developed a regulatory instinct that is holding back growth and harming our international competitiveness.”

A far different view was expressed in a Feb. 25 statement issued by the Obama Administration. It made it clear that the President would veto the bill.

“The bill would impose unneeded and costly analytical and procedural requirements on agencies that would prevent them from performing their statutory responsibilities. It would also create needless regulatory and legal uncertainty,” it said.

Agencies also already adhere to “the robust and well-understood procedural requirements of Federal law,” including the Administrative Procedure Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Congressional Review Act,” it added. “H.R. 2804 would replace this time-honored framework with layers of additional, unnecessary procedural requirements that would seriously undermine the ability of agencies to execute their statutory mandates."

The bill would also “subject the regulatory process to unneeded rounds of litigation, introduce redundant processes for litigation settlements, and require numerous, cumbersome layers of reporting,” the White House said.