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House GOP Plots Anti-Regs Blitz

February 21, 2014
The Hill
Pete Kasperowicz

House Republicans next week will pass a legislative package aimed at making federal regulations more transparent and less costly to the economy.

The legislation is the GOP's latest attempt to reduce the regulatory red tape they say is stifling job creation. Republicans have said getting Washington out of companies' way is the best way to turn around an economy that still struggles to create jobs more than five years after the Great Recession.

Bills to pare back federal regulations have become the GOP's response to Democratic arguments that Congress should be pushing to extend emergency unemployment benefits and raise the minimum wage. But these bills have mostly gone nowhere in the Senate due to opposition from Senate Democrats.

Nonetheless, GOP leaders next week will bring up the Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency (ALERRT) Act, H.R. 2804. The legislation combines four measures proposed by Republicans over the last year.

One piece of the bill, from Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.), would require the head of each federal agency to report each month on rules it is expected to issue, including the reason for the rule and when it will be issued. It would also have to estimate the cost of the rule and its economic impact.

Current law requires the administration to issue reports on regulatory actions twice a year, but Republicans have complained that these reports are rarely on time. Holding said, when he introduced his bill, his language is needed to ensure the government's regulatory plans are transparent to companies.

"In order for our economy to grow and businesses to prosper, we should take steps to ensure that they are given sufficient notice of regulations, and have time to adjust their business practices in anticipation of regulatory changes," Holding said.

Holding's bill was originally called the All Economic Regulations are Transparent (ALERT) Act, but it was rewritten to include three other deregulatory bills.

Another piece of the omnibus bill comes from Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who proposed the Regulatory Accountability Act in May. His bill would require federal agencies to choose rule-making alternatives that impose the smallest cost on companies.

"If we are to grow our economy and get more Americans back to work, Washington must get out of the way," Goodlatte said. "The Regulatory Accountability Act solves the problem of overreaching and unnecessary regulation by providing greater transparency, cost-benefit analysis of new rules and a more thorough process for high-impact rules."

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) is also contributing with language aimed at curbing rule-making though "sue-and-settle" litigation, which are rules that are the result of lawsuits and court decisions. Collins and other supporters say those rules are not transparent and are often the result of lawsuits by groups that are seeking regulations at the expense of companies and consumers.

The language would require agencies to publish all information related to these lawsuits and to give all affected parties a chance to review related rules before they're issued.

"Strong reforms are needed to protect communities and businesses against burdensome regulations that circumvent the rule-making process," Collins said. "This legislation sheds light on the regulation through litigation that is crippling small businesses in my district and across the nation."

Finally, the bill includes a proposal from Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) to require agencies to examine how proposed rules would affect the economy and to tailor those rules to have a minimal impact.

"While all businesses have to comply with state and local regulations, federal regulations can impose an even greater burden because most small businesses simply do not have the resources or the time to monitor and participate in the federal regulatory process or dispute new rules," he said.

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