Sen. Lankford Headlines Mercatus Event on Regulation and Opportunity


Recently the Mercatus Center hosted an excellent panel discussion on the effects of regulation on entrepreneurs and the poor. I was excited to see the program introduced by my long-ago CEI colleague Eileen Norcross, now Vice President of Policy Research at Mercatus. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) gave the opening remarks, and mentioned some of the small victories we’ve seen in the last year, such as the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Treasury agreeing that new IRS rules would be subject to review for the first time. Watch the full event below.

Sen. Lankford has established a reputation for himself as someone who cares about the nerdier details of how government policy is made and is willing to invest the time and energy to make the case for reform. He has introduced several bills aimed at improving the federal rulemaking progress. He’s also made the case for reforming the regulatory environment in particular sectors, like finance and banking. Here’s a statement from his office from this March:

Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today urged the Senate to pass a Dodd-Frank reform bill to ease federal regulations on small and rural banks in Oklahoma. In a floor speech, Lankford called for the Senate to pass the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S.2155), a bill that would reform the Dodd-Frank Act and help small businesses access the resources they need to invest and hire more workers.

Since passage of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, small community banks and credit unions have struggled to keep up with the regulatory demands because the law placed similar restrictions on them as the large banks. Specifically, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act would reduce restrictions for small banks and credit unions that provide mortgage loans, eases the threshold for small bank credit access, and adds extra credit protections for veterans and consumers.

Lankford, along with his Democratic colleague Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), has hosted a series of hearings on issues like judicial deference to executive agencies and the use of informal guidance documents in lieu of formal rulemaking. In 2016 Lankford and Heitkamp, as chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, hosted this hearing on “Examining Agency Use of Deference.” Notably, the witness list included then-Associate Professor of Law Neomi Rao, now the federal government’s top rule scrutinizer as administrator of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Mercatus Managing Editor Chad Reese provides some highlights of the rest of the event:

As moderator of the first panel, Director of the Mercatus Program for Economic Research on Regulation Patrick McLaughlin began by emphasizing the importance getting regulators to think first about the problems they hope to solve before finalizing regulations. McLaughlin noted that technology or other innovations can sometimes solve the same problem a regulation is aimed at addressing.


Professors Rutherford B. Campbell of the University of Kentucky School of Law and Dustin Chambers of Salisbury University’s economics department emphasized the disproportionate effects regulations can have on small businesses. Campbell noted that 20 to 25 percent of all employment in the United States comes from small businesses, and Chambers described his use of RegData to demonstrate how large business are able to “weather the regulatory maze” more easily than small businesses. That disadvantage shows up in lower rates of new business formation.

According to the panel, regulations typically raise prices and act as a regressive tax in terms of their effects on low-income households.

The second panel, moderated by Executive Vice-President and Chief Strategic Officer of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business Laura Jones, focused on positive steps policymakers can take to improve the regulatory system.

Kevin Falcon, Former Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier, described his work to institute dramatic regulatory reforms in British Columbia, identifying key examples of duplicitous or outdated regulations that regulators were able to remove without sacrificing public health and safety.

See more from the Mercatus Center’s Program for Economic Research on Regulation here and check out their blog/content stream “The Bridge.”