Our country’s system of standards and safeguards protects us from unseen threats that no individual or community can address on their own. Our system is supposed to ensure that consumers can trust the products on the market, that all companies in an industry follow the same health and safety standards, and that the risks of air pollution and water and soil contamination are minimized. But for the regulatory system to work in the public interest, agencies must be able to fulfill their statutory missions thoughtfully and effectively – i.e., they must be allowed to issue rules to implement the laws passed by Congress.
Unfortunately, our regulatory system is frequently subject to undue influence from regulated industries during the development and review of standards and rules. The overuse and abuse of the judicial review process can mire rules in litigation for years. White House review of agency rules can slow the process further, despite executive orders requiring that reviews be completed in 90 days. The result is the excessive delay of updated standards and new safeguards required by law. More than 120 rules are stalled at the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA); others are stalled at federal agencies or obstructed by legal challenges.
This report presents eight examples of the human consequences of delayed rules. These commonsense rules would make Americans safer and the United States economy fairer and stronger.
The rules are:
- The installation of rearview cameras to prevent children from being backed over by vehicles
- Protection from silica dust to prevent respiratory damage among construction and manufacturing workers
- More oversight of imported food to ensure its safety
- The extension of minimum wage and overtime rules to home care workers
- The improvement of coal ash waste site safety rules to better protect communities and the environment
- Better energy efficiency standards to save consumers and businesses money and reduce energy usage
- The establishment of professional standards that prevent financial advisors from taking advantage of investors
- New controls to prevent Wall Street traders from artificially driving up energy costs through speculation
To address these problems, the coalition recommends regulatory reforms that would improve transparency, lessen undue industry influence over the rulemaking process, impose more control over the revolving door, reduce inappropriate judicial review of regulations, improve enforcement of rules and increase penalties for corporate wrongdoing.
The Obama administration has the authority to act on six of these rules immediately. It should do so.
In addition, Congress should enact reforms that:
- Reduce industry lobbyists’ ability to block public protections by requiring OIRA to provide understandable explanations of why draft rules were modified;
- Reduce unnecessary delays at OIRA and avert OIRA interference in matters that are strictly within agencies’ domain;
- Close the revolving door between regulated industries and government; and
- Ensure that finalized regulations are effectively enforced and accomplish their intended goals.
Specific reforms in each of these areas are detailed in the recommendations section. A regulatory system plagued by delay and stymied by the special interests of regulated industries cannot effectively protect the American people. We can and must design a regulatory system that rewards enterprise and ensures that the American quality of life is guaranteed for future generations.