A Review of Regulatory Reform Proposals

September 17, 2015

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Testimony before the United States Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee


Thank you Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member Carper, and Members of the Committee for inviting me to share my thoughts as you review regulatory reform proposals. I am Director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, and Distinguished Professor of Practice in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. From April 2007 to January 2009, I oversaw federal executive branch regulations as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  I have studied regulations and their effects for over three decades, from perspectives in government (as both a career civil servant and political appointee), the academy, and consulting.

I appreciate the Committee’s interest in improving how the U.S. government develops and evaluates regulatory policy and am pleased to respond to your invitation to comment on six reform proposals under consideration. Three of the bills focus on evaluating the effects of existing regulations and modifying them as appropriate, and three focus on enhancing analytical procedures conducted before new regulations are issued. These reforms continue a bipartisan tradition in the United States of efforts to make regulation well-informed, transparent, and accountable to the American people.  Each of the bills is constructive and if passed, could bring about real improvements in regulatory procedures and outcomes. 

Institutionalizing Retrospective Review

S. 708, S. 1683, and S. 1817 would institutionalize retrospective review of regulations.  This is important.  Agencies seldom look back to evaluate whether existing regulations are achieving their intended effects. While long-standing executive orders require agencies to conduct retrospective review of their rules, these initiatives have had limited success.

S. 708 and S. 1683 would establish an independent body, modeled after the Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) Commission, to review existing regulations and present recommendations to Congress.  S. 1817 would require agencies to plan for retrospective review when they develop new regulations and periodically evaluate them.