A bipartisan opportunity for improving federal regulation

By Jeff Wasden, President
Colorado Business Roundtable

In President’s Obama’s State of the Union address on January 12, 2016 he won a vigorous – and bipartisan – standing ovation with a few simple words about the economy and regulation.

“I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy,” the President declared. “I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut.”

The Colorado Business Roundtable (COBRT) agrees with President Obama on this point. The challenge now is to turn that clear statement of principle into action with real legislation that Congress can pass and the President will sign.

Regulatory reform is critical to our economic vitality. According to a 2014 study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, federal regulation and intervention cost American consumers and businesses an estimated $1.88 trillion in lost economic productivity and higher prices.

The COBRT has been active locally in working to pass the Regulatory Reform Act. Later this year, together along with the NFIB, we will host the American Opportunity Project and the Regulation Freedom Amendment which looks to rein in the current burdensome regulatory processes imposed by bureaucrats and allow for congressional oversight.

Can Congress come together and create legislation that generates bipartisan support and actually has some teeth in reducing burdensome regulation? There is real optimism this can be accomplished.  A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators is currently attempting to develop such legislation. They are working on a proposal that would improve the process for developing new regulations that breaks the status quo and the regulatory mess we find ourselves in now. Regulations would then achieve their goal of protecting people and the environment, while cutting the red tape that makes it so hard for businesses to invest, hire and compete.

The draft proposal, the Regulatory Improvement Act, builds on recommendations made by a number of independent groups whose primary interest is in seeing that federal regulation works both effectively and efficiently. The Regulatory Improvement Act represents a major update of the 70-year-old process by which federal agencies write the regulations that affect Colorado’s citizens and businesses so dramatically.

For example, the proposal would require agencies that issue major regulations – those with an economic impact of $100 million or more – put a plan in place to assess whether the regulation is doing what it was intended do when it was issued. Quite simply, agencies have to answer the question: Is the regulation working?

Americans would also gain a bigger voice in the regulatory process. Today, agencies often propose major rules without giving much notice ahead of time, forcing everyone potentially affected to scramble in response. The process shortchanges the public, who may have good ideas to offer, and ultimately produces regulations that may not achieve their intended goals in the most efficient and effective way possible. The Regulatory Improvement Act would address this issue by requiring federal agencies to publish advance notice that they will be working on a new regulation that would have a major impact on the economy.

The bill would also require so-called independent agencies – like the SEC and Federal Communications Commission – to adopt the same kind of sound regulatory development practices that Cabinet agencies must follow. For example, right now, these agencies aren’t required to conduct a full and objective cost-benefit analysis when proposing a regulatory solution. Some do, but there is no guarantee that the agency will take the same time as say, the Department of Defense, to determine whether their proposal will achieve its objectives in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Colorado’s businesses are not opposed to all regulation. But, like the public, we believe that regulations should meet their intended goal of protecting people and the environment in the smartest way possible. Improving the process for issuing new regulations so that they meet their objectives, without creating duplication or unnecessary red tape is good public policy. The Regulatory Improvement Act would do just that, and the Colorado Business Roundtable believes such bipartisan reform could make a big difference.

Colorado Business Roundtable (COBRT) is a prominent advocate for proactive, positive legislation that strengthens the economy and allows businesses to grow and thrive in Colorado and the region. Through strategic alliances with great groups of industry leaders, chambers of commerce, educational institutions and governmental bodies, our goal is to improve the business environment, increase effectiveness, and expand the networks of our partners.