Obama Releases Spring 2016 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations

10 KC Chart

In the just-released spring 2016 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations (Agenda), a roundup published twice yearly by the White House Office of Management and Budget, federal departments and agencies have 3,306 rules flowing through the regulatory pipeline at various stages. That’s up from 3,260 last year at this time (although many of them holdovers from earlier volumes).

The overall count is rather flat but that obscures an increase in the more costly rules.
hese rules and regulations are broken up into “Active” (mostly proposed and final rules in the works), “Recently Completed,” and “Long-Term” rules in the new Spring Agenda as follows:

Spring 2016 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations (All Rules)

  • Active (these include, pre-rule, proposed and final): 2,239 (2,323 last spring)
  • Completed: 565 (477 last spring)
  • Long-term: 502 (460 last spring)

TOTAL: 3,306 (3,260 last spring)

Actives are down (but much regulation happens outside these official channels in today’s world), while Completed and Long-term counts are up considerably.

The new flow is also up from the snapshot we saw in Fall 2015, when the regulatory pipeline contained 3,297 rules, as detailed in the recent edition of Ten Thousand Commandments. (The Fall 2014 count topped them all at 3,415 rules.)

It is likely that drop derives substantially from changes in OMB reporting policy, which in my view reduce transparency, as I’ve pondered before in Forbes in “Big Sexy Holiday Fun With the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations.”

For comparison, the actual number of rules and regulations finalized in 2015 was 3,410. That is, not the flow, but the actual number issued as a done deal.

Of the thousands of rules appearing in the Unified Agenda pipeline, big and small, there is a subset known as economically significant. These rules are projected to have economic effects of at least $100 million annually (usually upward, but occasionally downward).

This costly subset stands at 202 in the spring 2016 Agenda, compared to 208 last year at this time (and 218 in the Fall 2015 Agenda):

Spring Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations (Economically Significant Rules)

  • Active: 123 (140 last spring)
  • Completed: 36 (28 last spring)
  • Long-term: 43 (40 last spring)

TOTAL: 202 (208 last spring)

Over-regulation is a bipartisan phenomenon, but this annual flow of larger-scale rules has been considerably higher under Obama than it was under President Bush. (See Figure 19 in the report Ten Thousand Commandments).

This is attributable to the promise to regulate and go around Congress via the “pen and phone,” let alone the “regulatory dark matter” rulemaking happening off the books.

Looking at the completed subset of economically significant rules makes the comparison stark. Obama’s completed rule counts tend to tower over those of President George Bush (See Figure 20 in Ten Thousand Commandments). Obama’s total count of rules last year (from Spring and Fall Agendas) was 61, higher than any Bush year apart from 2001.

The chart nearby shows another way of looking at the big picture of economically significant regulations as of spring 2016.

For completed economically significant rules, the average for Obama’s first seven years was 67; George W. Bush’s average over his eight years was 49.

Originally posted to Forbes.