What's New from the GW Regulatory Studies Center
11/30/16 - Regulatory Reset: How easy is it to undo regulation?, by Susan E. Dudley
11/28/16 - KCRW, "To the Point": The bumpy road to inauguration, interviewing Susan E. Dudley
11/25/16 - KAKM, Alaska Public Media: Trump, Congress and Southeast timber, what are the possibilities?, interviewing Sofie E. Miller
11/23/16 - NPR: Trump Team To Discover Rolling Back Regulations Isn't Easy, interviewing Susan E. Dudley
11/23/16 - Forbes: President-Elect Trump's Two-For-One Plan To Reduce Regulatory Accumulation, by Susan E. Dudley
11/21/16 - Congressional Review Act Fact Sheet, by Daniel R. Pérez
11/21/16 - The Presidential Transition
11/18/16 - Bloomberg: Obama Races to Regulate Before Trump Takes Reins, quoting Susan E. Dudley
11/18/19 - President Obama’s Midnight Regulatory Agenda, by Sofie E. Miller
11/17/16 - Liberty Law Blog: Midnight Mulligan – The Congressional Review Act Rides Again!, by Brian Mannix
New Commentaries from the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center
Regulatory Reset: How easy is it to undo regulation?
President Obama’s Midnight Regulatory Agenda
Remembering Charlie Schultze
The Midnight Uptick: Hasty Turnaround for Costly Student Loan Rule
Regulatory Review in the Land of Lincoln
Taiwan: Taking Public Participation a Step Further
The Renewable Fuel Standard’s Contribution to National Security is Misconstrued by its Advocates
Reaching Across Borders: U.S. – EU Regulatory Cooperation in Practice
Improving Evaluation of Chemical Regulations
11/20/16 - President-elect Trump has promised big cuts in regulation, including through a requirement that for “for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.” How easy would this be to accomplish? It depends on the circumstances. While regulations cannot be repealed with the stroke of pen (unlike executive orders, which presidents can unilaterally issue and unilaterally revoke), there are procedures for modifying or removing them. In this commentary, Susan Dudley weighs in.
11/18/16 - OIRA released its biannual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, providing the public with a first glimpse at upcoming regulations in the final days of the Obama administration. The final months of an outgoing presidential administration typically generate a significant amount of regulatory activity, termed “midnight” regulation. With a presidential transition on the horizon, many of the midnight regulations on the Obama administration’s agenda could be subject to disapproval by Congress using the Congressional Review Act.
11/8/16 - George Eads remembers Brookings economist Charles Schultze, author of The Public Use of Private Interest. As Chair of President Carter’s Council of Economic Advisers, Schultze helped to establish the practice of presidential supervision over executive branch regulatory agencies, along with economically informed thinking about regulatory reform.
11/2/16 - The Department of Education (ED) published a final rule concerning its student loan program on November 1, 2016. This rule attracted a great deal of input during its notice and comment period; ED notes that it received comments from over 50,000 parties. The Department completed its review with remarkable speed considering the amount of input received. The final rule could cost taxpayers up to $3.5 billion per year. Notably, the Department published its final rule without making any substantive changes as a result of the public input it received.
10/25/16 - Governor Bruce Rauner recently created the Illinois Competitiveness Council, which is charged with reviewing existing rules to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens that stifle competition and burden consumers. Illinois isn’t the first to recognize how outdated rules can negatively affect citizens and businesses, and this initiative builds off of efforts in other states and in the federal government. Retrospective review of existing rules is necessary for a well-functioning regulatory process, and Illinois’s new Competitiveness Council is a step in the right direction.
10/20/16 - Recently, the Executive Yuan of Taiwan issued a directive to extend the duration of the comment period in administrative rulemaking from 14 days to 60 days. This was a welcome move as the longer comment period provides greater opportunity for public participation. In this commentary, Prasad examines the challenges of operationalizing the notice and comment process and possible areas of improvement.
9/29/16 - Advocates of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) often cite its contribution to national security in their list of reasons for either maintaining or expanding the program. Providing security is a first-order priority of government, but the contribution of the RFS to national security is widely misrepresented. Understanding this component of the program is necessary in order to conduct a fair assessment of whether its benefits outweigh its costs.
9/20/16 - The U.S. and EU continue to improve outcomes for their citizens through successful regulatory cooperation despite the continued political rhetoric against international trade. On Thursday, September 15, 2016, the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center co-hosted a conference with the EU Delegation to the United States on “U.S.-EU International Regulatory Cooperation in Practice.” The conference brought together senior officials from the European Commission and U.S.
8/31/16 - Ex-ante regulatory impact assessment has a long tradition in many countries but it necessarily depends on unverifiable assumptions and models of how the world would look absent the regulation, and how responses to regulatory requirements will alter those conditions. In essence, ex-ante analyses are hypotheses of the effects of regulatory actions. More consistent and robust evaluation of regulatory outcomes would allow agencies to test those hypotheses. This would be valuable not only for understanding the effect of past actions, but for improving future decisions.
Latest Research from the GW Regulatory Studies Center
By Marcus Peacock
President-elect Trump endorsed “a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations need to be eliminated” or what could be called a “two-for-one” requirement. This working paper addresses how such a process might work including its scope; what to measure; additional workload; and whether it outlasts a Trump administration.
Public Comment on NHTSA’s Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Accelerating the Next Revolution In Roadway Safety
By Sofie E. Miller, Howard Beales and Daniel R. Pérez
This comment on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) recent Federal Automated Vehicles Policy considers the impact of regulating driverless car technology on innovation and social welfare. NHTSA is correct to be cautious of the effects that a federal policy could have on innovation, particularly because the safety gains from highly automated vehicles (HAV) could be significant. As a result, the agency should avoid any type of premarket approval authority for HAV technology, which could potentially delay the adoption of life-saving innovations and result in thousands of traffic fatalities.
By Marcus Peacock, Sofie E. Miller and Daniel R. Pérez
Scholars at the GW Regulatory Studies Center show how the U.S. could make regulations more evidence-based in a comment to the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking. Evidence-based regulations plan for, collect, and use evidence to predict, evaluate and improve societal outcomes throughout the rule’s life. This comment lays out a process for producing such rules and provides over a dozen specific recommendations on how the U.S. could better adopt and implement such a system.
Utilizing Behavioral Insights (without Romance): An Inquiry into the Choice Architecture of Public Decision-Making
By Adam C. Smith
To justify regulations that reduce consumer choice, policymakers are increasingly relying on observations from behavioral economics suggesting that people don’t always make rational decisions. However, behavioral economists generally neglect a complementary examination of public decision-makers. Through a public choice lens, Smith compares two public agencies influenced by behavioral economics, the U.S. CFPB and U.K Behavioral Insights Team, and finds that their different institutional structures lead to divergent policy outcomes. He concludes that for policies to be welfare-improving, they must be based on an understanding of public choice architecture as well as private choice architecture.
By Daniel R. Pérez
The Department of Homeland Security’s proposed rule would expand the use of its discretionary authority to parole individuals into the United States for reasons of “significant public benefit” to include foreign entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the U.S. DHS recognizes that “the full potential of foreign entrepreneurs to benefit the U.S. economy is presently limited since many…do not qualify under existing nonimmigrant and immigrant classifications.” The rule proposes several criteria for approving applicants on a case-by-case basis. This comment proposes several changes that DHS could make to its proposed rule to maximize its potential benefits.
Chapter by Sofie E. Miller and Brian F. Mannix
Federal regulations restrict the energy that everyday products can use, for everything from cars to microwaves. While these rules impose significant costs on consumers, the benefits are harder to identify. Agencies claim that restricting consumers’ choices provides consumers with large benefits, but this reasoning is hard to reconcile with the fact that consumers have many legitimate reasons to prefer the appliances they buy and the cars they drive. This chapter explores the reasoning behind energy efficiency regulations and why these reasons are insufficient to support the large costs they impose on consumers, especially low-income consumers.
By Marcus Peacock
Although spending on U.S. regulatory programs has doubled in the last 20 years, that trend is unlikely to last. How these programs manage budget cuts will determine whether downsizing harms or helps regulatory performance. Leaders of regulatory agencies must avoid satisfying tighter budgets with temporary “mindless austerity” measures that anger workers. Instead managers should use scarcity to find, with workers, “frugal innovations” that can significantly and permanently improve program value. In this working paper, Peacock examines how agencies can get budget cuts to help rather than harm.
By Marcus Peacock
What can regulatory reformers learn from past government-wide reform efforts? Two previous Regulatory Insights describe eight major U.S. government initiatives that failed to improve accountability. This Insight identifies a lack of leadership and unfaithful execution by agency personnel as barriers to success. These problems could be addressed by: (1) codification of reform; (2) adopting modest reform proposals (incrementalism); (3) creating third parties to implement/enforce reform; and (4) establishing competition between regulatory programs such as through a regulatory budget.
by Arthur G. Fraas and Randall Lutter in the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis
Government mandates to disclose information are a standard response to problems of asymmetric information. Fraas and Lutter examine recent major U.S. regulations issued between 2008 and 2013 to identify disclosure mandates and look for quantitative assessments of their effectiveness in improving comprehension. The authors find that although mandated disclosures underpin a number of major federal regulatory initiatives, agencies infrequently issue such mandates based on scientifically valid, controlled studies of the improvements in comprehension from such disclosure and recommend reforms to improve federally mandated information disclosure.
By Sofie E. Miller
The Department of Energy’s proposed rule would establish new energy efficiency standards for manufactured housing (formerly known as mobile homes). Due to anticipated price increases, the rule would have a regressive effect on low-income and elderly households, who are the primary occupants of manufactured homes. DOE’s analysis doesn’t take into account resale market obstacles that could prevent homeowners from recouping the higher upfront costs of efficient units, especially in Southern states with high poverty rates that bear the highest costs from the rule.
Public Comment on The Department of Education’s Proposed Rule on Student Assistance General Provisions, Federal Student Loans Programs and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant Program
By Daniel R. Pérez
The total outstanding balance of student loans is currently estimated to be $1.35 trillion, and default rates among borrowers have reached their highest levels in 20 years. The rule proposed by The Department of Education (ED) would make several amendments to regulations governing its Federal Direct Loan Program, including: 1) an expansion of the conditions wherein ED forgives borrowers’ loan balances, 2) additional provisions that broaden its ability to recover losses from institutions, and 3) expanded financial requirements for postsecondary schools. ED estimates this rule could have annual federal budget impacts of up to$4.23 billion.
Structure vs. Process: Examining the Interaction between Bureaucratic Organization and Analytical Requirements
By Stuart Shapiro
Attempts by politicians to control bureaucratic decisions include both structural organization and procedural rules. But how do these interact? This article examines the relationship between bureaucratic structure and the requirement that agencies conduct an analysis of their decisions prior to their issuance in the context of two types of analysis: cost-benefit analysis and environmental impact assessment. The research finds that conduct of analysis is affected by where analysts are placed in agencies. In particular independence of analysts has a tradeoff. Despite this, analysts expressed a clear preference for independence.
By Sofie E. Miller and Daniel R. Pérez
The final months of presidential administrations are accompanied by a significant increase in regulatory output as the executive branch relies increasingly on unilateral activity in a rush to implement its remaining policy priorities. This has come to be known as the “midnight period.” This report contains two robust, quantitative models that contribute to the scholarship in this area by: predicting the number of economically significant rules likely to be issued during the Obama administration’s final months, and finding that independent regulatory agencies do not increase their regulatory output during presidential transitions.
Public Comment on EPA’s Proposed Renewable Fuel Standards for 2017 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2018
By Sofie E. Miller
EPA’s latest Renewable Fuel Standard proposal would increase the mandated total renewable fuel production to 18.8 billion gallons in 2017. Although it was intended to improve the environment, availability of new scientific, technical, and economic information shows that the RFS program is likely causing significant environmental harm through increased greenhouse gas emissions and damage to waterbodies and ecosystems. Given the environmental damage and the large economic impact of the standards, EPA should update its benefits analysis and consider using its waiver authority to further reduce the standards.
By Sofie E. Miller
To improve its ongoing retrospective review efforts, this public comment recommends that the Department of Energy incorporate plans for retrospective review into its economically significant or major rules, and provide enough time between energy efficiency standards to allow for an effective review of each rule before increasing the stringency of its standards. DOE should also consider surveys or other measures of actual consumer behavior to ensure that its assumptions about household appliance energy use are accurate. Finally, DOE should commit to measuring whether its standards negatively affect competition in regulated industries.