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Businesses cool as administration moves to ease regs

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The White House said Tuesday it's going to tweak some 500 regulations it says have unnecessarily tied companies' hands, but the announcement drew little enthusiasm from a business community that doubts the action will do much to overcome a slew of new health care and financial regulations.

President Obama's regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, touted the reforms — which range from an Environmental Protection Agency initiative to allow hazardous-waste generators to report electronically to a consolidation of various tax forms and requirements by the Internal Revenue Service — as an unprecedented effort to cut bureaucratic red tape.

"The president has directed agencies to give careful consideration to both benefits and costs, to promote public input and listen to stakeholders, to simplify and harmonize rules, to select approaches that promote innovation, and to consider flexible approaches that reduce burdens and maintain freedom of choice," Mr. Sunstein wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

The reforms are a culmination of a months-long regulatory review Mr. Obama initiated with an executive order in January. Briefing reporters on a conference call, Mr. Sunstein said the changes would save an estimated $10 billion over five years and result in new jobs.

But business groups, who have long decried what they describe as burdensome rules that hinder job creation, were lukewarm.

"The administration's findings and determinations, on their own, are a worthy effort at making technical changes to the regulatory process, but the results of this look back will not have a material impact on the real regulatory burdens facing businesses today," Bill Kovacs, vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote on the chamber's website. "The bottom line is that real regulatory reform would include permit streamlining; requiring transparency in the permitting process so we know exactly which permits are being held up and why ... and finally by mandating that federal agencies apply all the laws Congress passed relating to regulatory reform, including data quality, regulatory flexibility and unfunded mandates."

In addition to criticizing the new rules implementing overhauls of the nation's health care and financial systems, business groups have argued that proposals, such as Obama administration's plan to lower the nation's ozone standards, will hamstring the economy.

Mr. Sunstein defended the new rules but said "the point is appreciated."

"If people have ideas for making implementation work as seamlessly and cost-effectively as possible, we are all ears," he said.

Congressional Republicans were dismissive of Tuesday's announcement.

"Today the White House announced the outcome of its government wide review, and the results are underwhelming," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said. "Speeches and editorials are not enough to help real job creators in America [-] small-business owners [-] create middle-class jobs. Action is needed [-] which is why we must remove onerous federal regulations that are redundant, harmful to small businesses, and impede private sector investment and job creation."

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