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Tom Donohue: Antiquated Regulatory System Won’t Meet Modern Challenges

Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011 would help restore balance for the first time in a long time

The last time anyone tried to overhaul the federal regulatory process, Harry Truman was president, Frank Sinatra and Bette Davis were in their prime, and the microwave oven was a modern marvel.

Today’s regulatory system is no modern marvel. Instead, the complex, antiquated system has become a modern liability for our nation’s businesses. The regulatory burden and the uncertainty surrounding many new rules in the pipeline — to be heaped on top of the 175,000 regulations already on the books — are a major drag on business expansion, investment and jobs.

The Dodd-Frank Act brings an onslaught of new regulations — 259 are required under the law, and another 188 are completely up to the discretion of regulators. The health reform law created 159 new agencies, commissions, panels and other regulatory bodies. The Department of Labor has 100 rulemakings in the hopper. And the Environmental Protection Agency is working on more than 100 new rulemakings, 30 of which will cost the economy $100 million or more — each.

The resulting uncertainty is keeping badly needed capital on the sidelines and out of the markets as anxious businesses wait to see what regulators will do next.

Restoring balance to this process is long overdue — and for the first time in 65 years, it could actually happen.

The Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011, introduced in the House and Senate with bipartisan support, is designed to bring balance back to the regulatory system without undercutting needed public health and safety protections. The legislation would ensure that regulations impose as little burden on the economy as possible and that they are justified.

The bill would require regulators to publicly demonstrate the need for rulemakings backed by hard evidence and sound science. And it would call for on-the-record administrative hearings for the most costly regulations to ensure that agency data is well tested and reviewed. While the bill won’t impact regulations that are already on the books, it would apply to most of Dodd-Frank, health care and new environmental rules.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s regulatory reform activities go well beyond this important proposal. We have pushed for the repeal of a number of costly, recently finalized rules. We have successfully advocated for delaying unnecessary regulations that would eliminate jobs, such as the EPA’s new ozone regulations.

We’re currently facing the biggest economic challenges America has seen in generations. And some of those are worsening because of policies that haven’t been modernized in generations. Bringing our regulatory system into the 21st century is critical to putting Americans back to work.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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