Washington Report

Advocacy Updates from Washington D.C.

Congress Considers Regulatory Reform Bills

Since 2011, when Republicans won a majority in the U.S. House, regulatory reform has been a key plank of the legislative agenda. The broad goals have been to increase transparency and accountability in the rulemaking process.

Here are several regulatory reform bills that are currently moving through Congress:

  • SCRUB ActSummary: Bill would establish a “Retrospective Regulatory Review Commission” designed to reduce the costs of past regulation. The Commission would generate a pool of regulations for agencies to rescind. If an agency chooses to implement a new rule, it must first cut a rule from the Commission’s pool of regulations. Bottom Line: SCRUB would create a Blue Ribbon Commission that would not only review past outdated or duplicative rules, but also ensure that new rules have a plan for future review. Status: reported out of the House Judiciary Committee on a 17-12 vote.
  • Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA): Summary: Creates category of “high-impact” rule, or a measure that would impose annual costs on the economy of $1 billion or more; requires an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for a high-impact rule and requires agencies to adopt rules on the basis of the best evidence and the least cost to the economy. Raises the level of judicial scrutiny from “arbitrary and capricious” to “substantial evidence.” Bottom Line: The RAA would fundamentally transform how agencies implement major rules and give the public more time to scrutinize expensive regulations. Status: passed the House by a 250-175 vote and received in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
  • REINS ActSummary: The REINS Act requires Congress to approve all major rules before they can take effect. If Congress does not approve of a rule in 70 session or legislative days, it will not take effect. Bottom Line: REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act is essentially the inverse of the Congressional Review Act. Instead of resolutions of disapproval once a rule is final, REINS authorizes Congress to approve of every major rule through resolutions of approval. Status: reported out of the House Judiciary Committee on a 15-10 vote.
  • RAPID ActSummary: The legislation is designed to ease the process for federally-funded and federally permitted construction projects. It allows lead agencies conducting reviews more power to conclude lengthy inter-agency reviews and requires that lawsuits challenging projects to be filed not less than 180 days from the agency’s decision. Bottom Line: the goal of the legislation is to streamline the federal permitting process for construction and infrastructure projects. Status: reported out of the Judiciary Committee on a 15-11 vote.
  • ALERT ActSummary: The ALERT Act would require each federal agency to submit a monthly report to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on pending regulations for the following year. It requires OIRA to publish an annual report on the number of rules and the total costs of all proposed or final rules; and it prohibits a rule from taking effect unless posted on the Internet for at least six months, subject to a few exceptions. Bottom Line: This bill is designed to heighten transparency of the regulatory state.  Status: reported out of the House Judiciary Committee on a 14-9 vote.
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