Regulations Endanger Democracy

The House has passed some key regulatory reform measures this year, including the REINS Act most recently (which stands for “Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny”) and the Regulatory Accountability Act.

REINS would require Congress to approve the largest agency rules before they are effective, while the RAA would boost regulatory oversight in numerous ways.

Relatively speaking when it comes to regulatory liberalization, the Senate has dragged its feet. An interesting new exception is Sen. Dan Sullivan’s (R-Alaska) RED Tape Act (S. 1944), where the RED stands for “Regulations Endanger Democracy.”

This bill is an interesting twist on some “one-for-one” measures that have had some success in Canada. For every rule imposed, one has to go.

In the case of Great Britain, it’s one in, two out.

It is a reasonable principle that any time an agency issues a regulation, it should remove a similar magnitude regulatory burden (or two) somewhere else. Rules have been imposed for decades with very little rollback taking place.

Here’s an NPR presentation on Canada’s one-in, one-out that is surprisingly favorable.

Applied strictly, “one in one out” amounts to a freeze on overall regulatory burdens. In Sullivan’s version, “a federal agency will be required to remove a regulation from the Federal Register for every new one promulgated.” The repeal must be published at the same time as the appearance of the new rule.

And then there’s an interesting twist: “If they refuse to do so, the cost of living adjustment for agency personnel will be withheld until the agency abides by the law.”

The RED Tape Act wouldn’t just address formal agency rules and regulations, but also “memorandums, guidance documents, bulletins, and press releases.” We like to call that stuff “dark matter” at CEI. Agencies are known to use it to affect private behavior and regulation without actually issuing a regulation.

Mainstream media has not been particularly friendly to regulatory liberalization efforts. It would be interesting to hear an NPR take on the Sullivan effort.