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Q&A: Federal regulations

September 21, 2011
By U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley )R-Iowa)
Q: What specific steps can Congress take to reduce federal regulations that undermine job creation?

A: I’ve co-sponsored several bills aimed at the growing regulatory burden and its negative impact on job creation. One would require Congress to give final approval to major, new federal regulations before those regulations could take effect. It’s called the REINS Act, or Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny Act (S.299).

The Constitution vests all legislative power in the Congress yet, year after year, Congress passes legislation that delegates more power to the executive branch without really assessing the full impact of those laws and how that power is used. As a result, federal agencies are increasingly bypassing Congress by imposing new regulations that Congress never intended.

The REINS Act would establish greater accountability for major regulations handed down from the executive branch and restore checks and balances in our system of government that have been eroded.

I’ve co-sponsored another bill – the Regulation Moratorium and Jobs Preservation Act of 2011 (S.1438) – that would prohibit federal agencies from taking any significant regulatory action until the unemployment rate falls below 7.8 percent.

The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent the day the President took office. Today, it’s 9.1 percent. The moratorium in this proposal would apply to any federal rule or guidance with an effect of $1 million or more on the economy. There were 144 rules with this sort of significant impact proposed in the first six months of 2011.

I’ve also sponsored a bill to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating dust in rural America while maintaining the protections to public health under the Clean Air Act.

I’ve brought the EPA Administrator to Iowa and argued for years now about the ridiculousness of the EPA’s trying to regulate the dust kicked up by a tractor in the field or a car on a gravel road, but the EPA hasn’t given up its effort to regulate rural dust.

The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act (S.1528) says that the EPA can’t lower the level of dust allowed under what it calls a particulate standard without showing there is a substantial health risk caused by farm dust, and that the lowering of the level allowed has a benefit that’s greater than the economic harm it would cause.

The Clean Air Act does not currently differentiate between urban and rural dust, so the bill provides the EPA with a distinction between the two for implementation of air quality standards. It’s unfair and excessive for the EPA to put the kind of expensive, stringent standards it’s been pursuing on rural America.

Q: Why is there so much frustration at the grass roots right now regarding federal regulations?

A: A tidal wave of new regulations is hitting the private sector, especially in health care, energy and the financial areas.

In 2010 alone, 3,573 new federal rules were finalized. Unlike taxes and spending, the costs that the private sector pays to comply with federal regulations are not accounted for in the federal budget process.

For employers, the uncertainty about what the real impact and cost of these regulations will be – on top of uncertainty about how taxes could go up -- makes it much harder to move forward with investments and the kind of economic activity that retains and creates jobs. In January, the President announced a comprehensive review of government regulations that are outdated or just don’t work.

There was hope that concrete action by the administration could make a difference.

Unfortunately, the regulatory rollback based on the review, announced in August, might be too weak to make a dent, especially in the face of emerging regulations, such as those stemming from the 2010 health care law.

Congress needs to stay on top of the regulatory process in the executive branch, meeting its responsibilities for congressional oversight, and take legislative action to make the regulatory system less burdensome on America’s economy.

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