Is Flexible Regulation an Oxymoron?

From: RegBlog

Cary Coglianese

“Flexible regulation” might sound like an oxymoron, but it has actually become a widely accepted catch phrase for a pragmatic approach to regulation. The phrase stakes out a middle ground between regulation’s defenders and its critics, promising the achievement of important health, safety, and environmental objectives while also minimizing costs and preserving liberty. For over thirty years, the ideal of “regulatory flexibility” has been embedded in federal law in the United States, with legislation requiring administrative agencies “to solicit and consider flexible regulatory proposals” when contemplating new requirements that would affect small businesses. Early last year, President Obama adopted a more general order to agencies to pursue “flexible approaches” whenever “relevant, feasible, and consistent with regulatory objectives, and to the extent permitted by law.” Agencies are now required to “identify and consider regulatory approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for the public.”

As The Election Nears, New Rules Are Facing Delays

Editor’s Note:  For more information on Midnight Regulations, please see OIRA Watch here.

WASHINGTON (AP) — When the Obama administration agreed to set the first-ever federal limits on runoff in Florida, environmental groups were pleased. They thought the state’s waters would finally get a break from a nutrient overdose that spawns algae, suffocates rivers, lakes and streams and forms byproducts in drinking water that could make people sick.

Nearly three years later — with a presidential election looming and Florida expected to play a critical role in the outcome — those groups are still waiting. The rules, originally scheduled to take effect in March, now won’t be active until next January, and even then could be replaced altogether by state-drafted regulations.

White House slower to regulate as election approaches

By Richard Wolf

WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) — The pace of regulations issued by the Obama administration is receding as the nation’s economy falters and the 2012 election approaches.

Several of the most expensive and controversial rules — to protect the food supply, reduce exposure to silica dust, require rear-view cameras or other devices on cars, and more — remain under review by the White House long after they were expected to be published.

Advocates for the environment, health and safety say the  delay signals an effort by the administration to reconsider the economic and political impacts of its actions, in light of the struggling economy and the 2010 midterm elections that empowered Republicans.

House Passes Bill to Block Regulations Until Unemployment Drops

From: Bloomberg News

By  Derek Wallbank

The U.S. House voted to block thousands of potential future regulations covering every facet of the economy touched by the U.S. government, including updates to rental subsidies for low-income tenants and Medicare payments for doctors and other health care providers.

The bill stands little chance of becoming law. With Election Day less than four months away, though, it allowed lawmakers a chance to vote against “Washington” by blocking basically everything the federal government does.

The vote, mostly along party lines, was 245-172.

Time To Reform Unfunded Mandates

From: (CEI blog)

by Ryan Young

When deficits are high, Congress has even more incentive than usual to indulge in unfunded mandates. That way it can deliver the spending programs and other government goodies that voters like, and without adding to the deficit. Of course, this is because states and the private sector bear the burden instead.

Congress passed an Unfunded Mandate Reform Act back in 1995, but it is mostly toothless, and needs to be strengthened. Fortunately, help may be on the way, as Wayne Crews and I explain in today’s Washington Times:

Beware the Surge of Midnight Regulations

From: Mercatus Center

Sherzod Abdukadirov

At the end of every presidential administration, regulatory activity spikes during the “midnight” period between Election Day and Inauguration Day. This surge occurs even if the incumbent president is reelected. However, the surge is more pronounced if there is a change in administration. Unconstrained by the need to work with Congress, outgoing administrations often use this window to push through sweeping and controversial regulations. Once finalized, regulations often prove hard to repeal. During the surge, the agencies’ regulatory analysis quality drops and regulatory oversight by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) weakens. As a result, federal agencies produce ineffective regulation and waste public resources.

Grassley Introduces Senate Legislation Targeting Environmental Consent Decrees

From: Bloomberg/BNA — Daily Environment Report

By Dean Scott

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and five other Republicans introduced  legislation July 12 targeting “sue and settle” practices in which public  interest and environmental groups take legal action against the Environmental  Protection Agency and other agencies to make existing regulations more  protective or force agencies to expedite long-delayed rules.

The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2012 (S. 3382) is  the Senate companion to a House bill that is among several Republican  deregulatory proposals slated for floor debate the week of July 23.

George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center Executive Course: Federal Regulatory Policy, Process, and Analysis (Oct. 3rd-4th)

From: GW Regulatory Studies Center

Regulation is one of the most important mechanisms by which the federal government sets policy. This course offers a comprehensive examination of regulatory theory, policy, and practice, focusing on analytical requirements for estimating the impacts of proposed regulatory alternatives and evaluating the effects of existing regulations. It provides a legal foundation for understanding regulations’ role in public policy, and examines the relationship between Congress, regulatory agencies, executive branch oversight offices, the public, and the courts.

Participants will learn how to:

Searching for a Regulatory “Tsunami” in Calm Seas

Editor’s Note:  The phrase “regulatory tsunami” properly refers to the signing of Executive Order 12291 on regulatory review by President Reagan, see remarks by Jim Tozzi on OIRA’s formative years here.  A key aftershock was President Clinton signing Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review.  President Obama’s Executive Order 13563, Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review, built on long-established, bipartisan Presidential policy.

From: OMB Watch

Has the Obama administration unleashed a regulatory “tsunami” as House and Senate Republicans charge?  Has this administration issued more significant final rules than past administrations?   Contrary to the rhetoric of the business community and its allies on Capitol Hill, hard research shows the answer is an unambiguous no.

OMB tells CFOs to run SAVE [Securing America Value and Efficiency] Award ideas by broader audience

From: 1500AM

By Jason Miller

The White House is using a restaurant-style rating system for the 2012 SAVE Award  contest, and it wants agency chief financial officers to be the food critics.

The administration is asking federal employees to rank money-saving ideas with  one, two or three stars — with three being the top-rated, most likely to  save the government money.