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Senators Lankford, Heitkamp Regulatory Improvement Bills Pass Committee

WASHINGTON, DC – Three bipartisan regulatory improvement bills introduced by Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) today passed the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The bills aim to 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 on their most expensive rules; 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 verifiable problems.

“People in Oklahoma are frustrated when someone a thousand miles away tells them how to operate their business without ever asking for meaningful input or conversation,” said Lankford. “Most people are not anti-regulation. They simply want to be heard and have the opportunity to manage their own business. Today is the first step in the long journey back to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

“Senator Heitkamp and I have held numerous hearings and roundtables about the federal rulemaking process, and it has become clear that the system is not working as intended. 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. We will push to bring these bills to the floor for a full vote by the Senate, and I am confident the House will consider this legislation.”

“Today the three bipartisan, commonsense bills that I introduced with Senator Lankford to cut red tape and make federal regulations more effective and fair were voted out of Committee, and are a step closer to becoming law. Federal regulations protecting our air, workers, and families are critical – but we need to make sure they don’t overly burden North Dakota families, farmers, and small businesses,” said Heitkamp. “Our bills would make sure Congress reviews regulations so they work as intended, and develop strategies that lessen the impact of federal regulations over time and eliminate unneeded regulations. We have a simple goal – make federal regulations more effective and efficient.”

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 (S. 1817):

  • 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 reviews 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 by requiring as part of each proposed or final major rule 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.

Early Participation in Regulations Act of 2015 (S. 1820):

  • 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, a general description of possible regulatory alternatives, 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 or would be both unduly burdensome and duplicative of existing processes.

Principled Rulemaking Act of 2015 (S.1818):

  • 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. 

The Smarter Regulations Through Advance Planning and Review Act (S. 1817) passed the Committee by voice vote; the Early Participation in Regulations Act of 2015 (S. 1820) passed by a vote of 11 to 5; and the Principled Rulemaking Act of 2015 (S. 1818) passed by a vote of 10 to 6.

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 four hearings and a roundtable discussion on the federal regulatory process, including a hearing with OIRA Administrator Howard Shelanski in July. 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.