Senators Lankford, Heitkamp Introduce Regulatory Improvement Bills

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) today announced they introduced three bills that will facilitate greater transparency and accountability in the federal rulemaking process.

The Smarter Regulations Through Advance Planning and Review Act would require agencies to plan for and conduct regular mandatory retrospective reviews; the Early Participation in Regulations Act of 2015 would allow Americans to participate in the regulatory process earlier; and the Principled Rulemaking Act of 2015 would ensure that agencies propose rules that address real problems.

“Many regulations provide certainty to the marketplace and provide us with clean air and water but, unfortunately, too many federal rules are unnecessarily burdensome to families and businesses,” said Lankford. “Through three hearings and many conversations with stakeholders, it is apparent that the regulatory process needs updating to prevent bad regulations from raising prices on consumers. This package of legislative solutions would improve the regulatory process and relieve the overwhelming burden that regulations have placed on our economy and families. These bills will produce a more efficient regulatory process, and ultimately better regulations by requiring retrospective reviews, earlier notice to the public, and more rigorous analysis on the front end of the rulemaking process.” 

“Federal regulations can play a key role in leveling the playing field for small businesses and protecting families and communities by keeping food and drinking water safe, but there’s more we can do to make regulations work better,” said Heitkamp. “Part of that effort should include regular review of federal regulations – both taking a look at existing rules to see how they are working after they are implemented and determining if they need to be eliminated or updated, and developing better strategies for reviewing a regulation when it is first proposed. The Administration has made important strides on this front across the federal government, and a stronger focus on reviewing federal regulations will help reduce waste, cut red tape, and make the federal government more effective and efficient – as Senator Lankford and I have been working to do.”

Lankford and Heitkamp are Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management.

Smarter Regulations Through Advance Planning and Review Act of 2015:

  • Requires agencies, promulgating new major rules, to include a plan for retrospective review which will ensure the regulation is meeting its regulatory objectives, and is not causing unnecessary costs. Presidents often issue Executive Orders calling for retrospective reviews – this bill would make retrospective review mandatory for major rules.
  • Requires the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to make sure agencies are in compliance with the bill and issue guidance on developing plans for reassessing their rules.  
  • Will make sure agencies think about the information they will need for later review as they draft the initial rule.
  • Requires an agency plan that will consist of the summary of the regulatory objectives; the methodology for measuring whether the rule is meeting those objectives; and specific timeframe for implementing the review. This framework will be part of each proposed or final major rule.

Early Participation in Regulations Act of 2015:

  • Requires agencies to publish an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for major rules in the Federal Register at least 90 days before it publishes its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, with a few exceptions. Currently, the Administrative Procedure Act does not require ANPRMs.
  • Requires agencies to hold the comment period open for 60 days and include a written statement with the ANPRM that identifies the significance of the problem the rule seeks to address, legal authority for writing the rule, and the specific desired measurement to determine success.
  • Agencies are exempt if the agency is not required, by law, to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, is otherwise exempted from general notice and comment rulemaking procedures, or if the OIRA Administrator determines the requirements would not serve the public interest.

Principled Rulemaking Act of 2015:

  • Codifies portions of two Executive Orders to ensure regulatory agencies only promulgate regulations that are necessary, maximize benefits, and provide the public a meaningful opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process. Codifying the Executive Orders promotes certainty and accountability in the regulatory process, extends these requirements to independent agencies, and makes agency compliance with these requirements judicially reviewable.
  • Requires agencies, before promulgating, to specifically identify the problem to be addressed, consider the legal authority to write a rule, examine whether existing regulations have caused the problem, consider alternatives to regulation, assess costs and benefits, avoid inconsistent or duplicative regulations, and tailor rules to impose the least burden on individuals and businesses. 

As determined by OIRA, a major rule is one that is likely to impose an annual effect on the economy of $100,000,000 or more; a major increase in costs for consumers, industries, or governments; or a rule that inhibits American competition with foreign markets.

Lankford and Heitkamp have made regulatory reform a central focus for their work on the Subcommittee. The panel has held three hearings and a roundtable discussion on the federal regulatory process, including a hearing with OIRA Administrator Howard Shelanski last week. In March, the Senators launched their national #CutRedtape Initiative, a new online tool for American families and businesses to share their stories about how federal regulations impact them on a daily basis. So far, the bipartisan initiative has received more than 160 submissions on regulations from a variety of federal agencies, including the EPA, USDA, Department of Education, and many others.