New Federal Regulation Hits a Full Stop

According to press reports, President Barack Obama has ordered a full stop to all pending federal regulations. Funny, I didn’t hear anything about that in yesterday’s hours of inaugural coverage. Perhaps it would have killed the mood for some people.

WASHINGTON — One of President Barack Obama’s first acts is to order federal agencies to halt all pending regulations until his administration can review them.

The order went out Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Obama was inaugurated president, in a memorandum signed by the new White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. The notice of the action was contained in the first press release sent out by Obama’s White House.

The waning days of former President George W. Bush’s administration featured much debate over what rules and regulations he would seek to enact before he left office.

As the last sentence of the story alludes to, this might be an effort to derail former President Bush’s last minute (possibly even de-) regulatory efforts. As a 10 year veteran of the fight, though, I’d say that any “all stop” to new regulations is bound to be a net bonus.

And in case you’re imagining that this came out of nowhere, I will remind readers that a startlingly similar proposal was advanced months ago by our very own Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews:

Yesterday I called for a major “Deregulatory Stimulus.”

Alongside—with financial, health care, energy efficiency, “green job” and other mandates likely in an Obama Administration—the manner in which dozens of Departments, agencies and commissions regulate needs some attention too.

Upon raising his hand from the Bible after taking the Oath of Office, President Obama should declare a one year freeze on all new government regulations; he’d naturally exempt those he regards as addressing immediate threats to public health and safety.

The point is, during that freeze, the President should clarify an intention to review all regulations on the books, and streamline and control the $1 trillion regulatory state. His transition handlers have announced a desire to employ Executive Orders; he could use that power to liberalize, not add to burdens to a limping economy.

Here’s a grab bag (non-exclusive and in no particular order) of things to do:

– Implement a bi-partisan “Regulatory Reduction Commission.”
– Re-discover federalism, that is, circumscribe the federal regulatory role regarding health and safety matters best left to states.
– Improve the ethic of quantifying regulatory costs, and selecting the least-cost compliance method.
– Codify Clinton’s executive order on “Regulatory Planning and Review” (E.O. 12866), or better, Reagan’s E.O. 12291.
– Require OMB’s Regulatory Information Service Center to publish number of major and minor rules produced by each agency, and strengthen its oversight.
– Reinstate the Regulatory Program of the U.S. Government, which used to appear routinely as a companion document to the Budget.
– Enlarge regulatory flexibility and exemptions for small business
– Declare Federal Register notices as insufficient notice to small business
– Hold hearings to boost the scope of the Small Business Administrations’ “r3” regulatory review program.
– Lower the threshold at which a point-of-order against unfunded mandates applies.
– Lower the threshold for what counts as an “economically significant” rule, and improve explicit cost analysis.
– Explore, hold hearings on, and devise a limited “regulatory budget.”
– Establish an annual Presidential address or statement on the state of regulation and its impact on productivity and GDP.
– Sunset regulations after fixed period unless explicit reauthorization is made. (It’s been said that regulations should expire like a carton of milk).
– Implement a supermajority requirement for extraordinarily costly mandates.
– Challenge and reject delegation of legislative authority from Congress to agencies; That is, require Congressional fast-track approval before major or non-quantifiable agency-promulgated regulations take effect.

That’s a start. Stay tuned. I’ll say more on some of these in the future.

And while we’re celebrating our own foresight, let us mention the well meaning (but pessimistic) commenter who at the time wrote:

Great ideas. However, I have a feeling cows will be flying before the Obama administration implements something as worthwhile as these suggestions. But we can dream!

It seems the time for dreaming is now!