Today President Obama signed an Executive Order requiring agencies to ask the public for “regulations in need of retrospective review” and semi-annually report to the public and to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on the status of retrospective review efforts. The order also directs agencies, when conducting retrospective reviews, to give priority to initiatives that will significantly reduce costs and burdens imposed on the public. Agencies are also directed to consider the cumulative effects of their regulations and give priority to those reforms that “would make significant progress in reducing those burdens….”
The Executive Order, a follow-up to an earlier order on retrospective review, is aimed at actually reducing the public burden imposed by existing regulations. Manufacturers are encouraged by the requirements placed upon agencies for public participation and for prioritizing review initiatives.
Involving OIRA, the federal government’s regulatory gatekeeper, in the retrospective review process is important. OIRA can hold agencies accountable and help ensure agency efforts result in real reductions of costs and burdens imposed on regulated entities.
The Executive Order’s issuance coincides with the release of a new report on retrospective review by the Council of Economic Advisers. The Council asserts that, with the Executive Order, “the process of retrospective review should become a standard part of the assessment of federal regulations.”
However, only Congress can make effective regulatory reviews by agencies a permanent part of the assessment of regulations. Moreover, Congress can encourage regulatory reviews and retrospective analyses by sunsetting existing major regulations.
Importantly, the Executive Order does not apply to independent regulatory agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Despite the tremendous burden imposed by these agencies, executive authority over them is limited.
As discussed before, Congress should give the President the authority to review regulations issued by independent regulatory agencies. This would promote greater uniformity in our regulatory system and improve our economy by imposing the same kind of broader thinking already applied to the regulations of agencies in the rest of the Executive Branch.
Erik Glavich is director of legal and regulatory policy, National Association of Manufacturers.