Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 3:48 pm | Fair 67º


Tom Donohue: Regulators Represent the Fourth Branch of Government

A powerful, unelected and often unaccountable fourth branch of government is driving much of the policy that impacts the way we run our businesses and lead our lives.

Federal regulators are churning out about 4,000 regulations a year — including a rising number of massive, costly rules. Systemic overregulation breeds uncertainty, drives up costs, stifles hiring and investment, and threatens our competitive edge in a global economy.

A major indicator of overregulation is the rise in “economically significant” rules — those bearing a price tag of $100 million or more. In 2003, the number of economically significant rules was 127. That number has been steadily increasing since 2007. In 2012, a whopping 224 of these major regulations were in the pipeline.

There is also a troubling lack of transparency and public engagement. Federal law requires every president to release his regulatory plans twice a year so that individuals and businesses have a chance to plan for — or object to — regulations before they take effect.

After skipping both the spring and fall deadlines in 2012, the administration quietly published its regulatory agenda just days before the end of the year. And it confirmed what we already suspected: A second term will bring a slew of costly new regulations, covering everything from power plant emissions to health-care standards.

Once the regulations are out in the open, there isn’t always a chance for the public to offer input. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that about 35 percent of major regulations are issued without a public comment period. In most of those cases, the regulators simply decided that there was “good cause” to issue the rule without public input. In too many other instances, public comment periods have been too short to digest lengthy and complex rules, analyze their impact and offer thoughtful responses.

What’s to be done? We need to reform the entire system to restore transparency and accountability and to ensure that the benefits of rules outweigh the costs. In the meantime, we’ll continue to work with the regulators to improve rules when we can and with Congress to reform or repeal bad regulations.

And if it comes to it, we’ll sue. In support of one of its members, the Noel Canning Corporation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce briefed, argued and won a constitutional challenge last week to three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

The Chamber of Commerce will continue to use every tool at its disposal to keep the fourth branch of government at bay — and to protect America’s job creators from the costs and uncertainty of a regulatory regime run amok.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >