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Tom Donohue: Put the Brakes on Overregulation

Pending legislation offers real shot at modernizing the federal rule-making process

Washington seems to be stuck in neutral when it comes to some of the most basic responsibilities of government, such as reauthorizing core transportation programs or extending key tax provisions. In stark contrast, it is in regulatory overdrive.

The Obama administration is churning out significant new rules and regulations at a breathtaking pace — many designed to accelerate an ideological agenda. The flood of new regulations is weakening the labor market as employers, grappling with economic uncertainty, are forced to freeze hiring.

One agency, in particular, has pushed the pedal to the medal. Driven by a pro-union majority of members, the National Labor Relations Board is using and abusing the regulatory and administrative processes to ride roughshod over America’s job creators. The NLRB has issued dozens of decisions incrementally easing union organizing while making it harder for employers to manage their businesses.

In its most aggressive move yet, board members recently approved a rule that would allow labor organizers to effectively ambush employers with union elections. This would leave employers little time to express their views and communicate to workers the pros and cons of unionization. Employees should have the right to join or leave unions under fair rules.

The regulatory overreach doesn’t stop with the NLRB. The Labor Department has 100 rule-makings in the pipeline. Dodd-Frank, the financial reform law, requires 447 rules, 63 reports and 59 studies — all that and it still falls short of the reform we need. The health-care law established 159 new agencies, panels, commissions and regulatory bodies as well as countless costly mandates. And the Environmental Protection Agency has several billion-dollar-plus rules on the docket.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce believes in strong protections for public health and consumer safety. But these examples underscore the need for systemic reform.

The good news is that for the first time in 65 years we’ve got a real shot at modernizing the federal rule-making process. The bipartisan Regulatory Accountability Act would ensure that regulations are narrowly tailored, supported by strong and credible data and evidence, and impose the least burden possible. The bill has passed the House of Representatives and has broad bipartisan support in the Senate. Another key piece of legislation, the REINS Act, would require congressional consent for any regulation with an economic impact of $100 million or more.

The Chamber of Commerce is ready to put its power behind these and other efforts to halt the regulatory overreach. One way or another, we’ve got to put the brakes on overregulation — or economic certainty and job creation will become road kill.

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

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