01.26.15

Senators Lankford and Fischer Introduce Bill to Bring Transparency to Unfunded Mandates

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced The Unfunded Mandate Information and Transparency Act (S. 189) yesterday. Their legislation would close loopholes that allow federal agencies to impose mandates on state and local governments, as well as the private sector, without first providing a transparent accounting of their costs.

“While the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 has brought more accountability and transparency on the economic impacts that Washington has on state and local governments and the private sector, loopholes still exist that allow entire agencies and major rules to sidestep this vital process,” said Lankford. “Legislation like the Unfunded Mandate Information and Transparency Act is needed to bring accountability back to Washington. The Government Accountability Office has recommended reforms like this for years. This Senate was elected to bring change to Washington – this reform is exactly what needs to be sent to the President’s desk.”

“The federal government’s ongoing expansion into the lives of all Americans comes with a serious cost—a cost that is often hidden from the taxpayer,” said Fischer. “Our citizens deserve a full and accurate accounting of their tax dollars, and federal agencies should be required to justify their expenditures.

“The legislation Senator Lankford and I introduced will restore transparency and accountability to our federal agencies. It will scrutinize new unfunded mandates while creating other avenues to address ones that are already on the books. The president and Congress have already committed to reining in unfunded mandates. It is time to follow through on this and present bold solutions that will hold our government accountable.”

The Unfunded Mandate Information and Transparency Act gives teeth to a nearly-two-decade-old law enacted to prevent the spread of unfunded federal mandates. This bill would increase accountability by requiring agencies to perform cost analyses and updating the accounting structure to include other undocumented costs to consumers. 

In 1995, The Unfunded Mandate Reform Act (UMRA) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. This original version was designed to prevent the spread of unfunded federal mandates by establishing reporting requirements on the cost of mandates. Since that time, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified at least 14 loopholes that permit an agency to avoid UMRA analysis requirements. The legislation introduced by Senators Lankford and Fischer corrects this issue and improves accountability in the following ways:

  • Clarifies that all agencies must conduct UMRA analyses unless a law “expressly” prohibits agencies from doing so.
  • Directs agencies to consult with the private sector (i.e. small businesses) when developing regulations.
  • Allows a chairman or ranking member of a standing or select committee of the Senate or House of Representatives to request an agency to conduct a retrospective analysis of an existing federal regulatory mandate.
  • Includes costs passed on to consumers in the analysis of the mandate’s total cost.

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