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MILLER: Unraveling red tape

Regulatory reform is key to unleashing economic growth

- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Obama administration's red tape is strangling business and dragging down economic growth. Members of both parties on Capitol Hill are getting an earful from constituents about the need to give local businesses a breather. Now a bipartisan, bicameral group is working on a long-overdue overhaul of the process by which federal agencies draw up rules.

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Regulatory Accountability Act, a bill that would curb expensive and unnecessary regulations, in preparation for markup by year's end. The Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the rulemaking process, has not been seriously touched since it became law in 1946.

Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, and Sen. Mark Pryor, Arkansas Democrat introduced the Senate version of the bill. "Businesses don't know what's coming next," Mr. Portman told The Washington Times in an interview. "They don't know what's around the corner. This would give the whole process more predictability and certainty and common sense."

As the Bush administration's former director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Portman knows full well the economic impact of executive branch rules. "There's been a huge growth in regulations at every level," said Mr. Portman.

During his term, President Obama has proposed 84 rules with an economic impact greater than $100 million per year. That's a 35 percent increase in the number of major rules over President George W. Bush and a 50 percent increase over President Bill Clinton.

"What the administration has not been able to do legislatively, it has done through administrative or executive action," Mr. Portman said, pointing to the Environmental Protection Agency's attempt to enact "cap-and-trade" through the regulatory process after Congress rejected the idea.

This bipartisan reform legislation would require agencies to perform a true cost-benefit analysis before adopting a rule. Agencies would be forced to seek out and adopt less burdensome alternatives - in terms of both expense and jobs. Anyone affected by a rule costing more then $1 billion a year would have access to a formal hearing to challenge the agency's evidence and assumptions. Judicial review would ensure regulators give accurate reporting of costs and benefits.

Importantly, the bill would ensure that these policies apply equally to independent agencies, such as the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In addition, the legislation would force transparency into the rulemaking process by limiting closed-door regulating and requiring advance public participation notice before proposing a major rule.

This plan would help companies devote their attention to satisfying customers instead of spending precious capital and resources appeasing the whims of Washington bureaucrats. Creating more rigorous standards for rulemaking in Washington would give businesses the certainty they desperately need to invest, grow and hire.

Congressional leaders should expedite a floor vote on the bill before the end of the year. Our struggling economy can't wait much longer.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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