Category Archives: regulation

Last Chance for the 115th: Options for Regulatory Reform

Note: this is my contribution to a series at CEI’s blog. Links to other posts by my colleagues below.

This June here at OpenMarket we’ll be looking at what the 115th Congress, which began January 3, 2017 and runs through January 3, 2019, has accomplished so far and what might still be achieved for limited government and free markets before it’s over. Read more about the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s recommendations for legislative reform here

With a possible party change in play this November in one or both chambers of Congress, the time might be now or never to pass substantive regulatory reform. President Trump is amenable to reform legislation, and both chambers of Congress have GOP majorities. A number of bills are already in play, and some have even passed the House.

While Trump’s early executive orders have helped to slow the growth of new regulations, the next president can undo them as easily as Trump enacted them, with the stroke of a pen. Permanent reform requires Congress to act, and the current favorable political winds might be changing direction as we speak.

I recently compiled a short list of active regulatory reform legislation; nothing has changed since then. I reprint the list below, and encourage Congress to act on them while they still can. And if the GOP retains congressional control past November, there is much more they can do then. For now, this may have to do:

  • REINS Act: This bill, which has passed the House four times now, would require Congress to vote on all new regulations costing more than $100 million per year. The goal is to increase elected officials’ oversight over unelected agency officials’ rulemaking. See also my paper on REINS here.
  • Regulatory Accountability Act: This bill, which has passed the House, packages six reform bills in one. Reforms include stricter disclosure requirements for agencies regarding new rules; making judicial review of regulations easier; stricter disclosure for rules affecting small businesses and nonprofits; require benefit-cost analysis for more regulations; monthly agency reports on upcoming regulations and other activities; and require a plain-language 100-word summary for proposed new regulations.
  • Regulatory Improvement Act: This bill would establish an independent commission to comb through select parts of the 178,000-page Code of Federal Regulations. The Commission would send Congress an omnibus package of redundant, obsolete, or harmful rules to eliminate. The RIA’s lead sponsor is a Democrat, which might make Republicans squeamish about giving the other team a victory. But they should pass the bill anyway. Not only would this be a positive political gesture, it’s a needed housekeeping chore that deserves to be expanded upon in future sessions of Congress.
  • GOOD Act: Neither chamber has passed this bill yet. It would alleviate the problem of regulatory “dark matter” by improving access to guidance documents that agencies issue. Agencies sometimes circumvent the legally required notice-and-comment rulemaking process by simply inserting regulations into these guidance documents.

With the Senate staying in session for most of its usual summer recess, it has no excuse for not at least putting these bills to a vote. They will boost the economy in the short and long run, which sits well with voters. And with a willing executive happy to sign them, they are easy political victories.

Read previous posts in the “Last Chance for the 115th” series:

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This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

Angry allies, North Korea, and Chinese tariffs dominated the news last week. Under the radar, regulatory agencies closed in on their 1,500th new regulation of the year. The newest batch of rules range from air cargo to dietary fiber.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 57 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 80 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 57 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 1,494 final regulations in 2018. At that pace, there will be 3,220 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 3,236 regulations.
  • Last week, 1,317 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,286 pages the previous week.
  • The 2018 Federal Register totals 28,432 pages. It is on pace for 61,276 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Three such rules have been published this year, one in the last week.
  • The running compliance cost tally for 2016’s economically significant regulations is $319.1 million.
  • Agencies have published 52 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year.
  • In 2018, 256 new rules affect small businesses; 14 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

Good News for Young Lemonade Stand Entrepreneurs

Every summer there are news stories about local authorities shutting down children’s lemonade stands over lack of licenses, permits, a lack of restaurant-grade kitchen or cleaning facilities, a zoning violation…the list is long. I wrote about this outrage back in 2011 here, and Iain Murray and I wrote a Townhall column here. Regulators are still at it, though. But now, junior entrepreneurs have gained a powerful ally.

Country Time Lemonade has offered to help pay fines and permits for young lemonade stand entrepreneurs who incur regulators’ wrath. Its Legal-Ade program will pay up to $300 to help families fight back against absurd regulations. In fact, each time this tweet is retweeted, Country Time will donate a dollar to the Legal-Aide program, up to $500,000.

Is this is a cynical, profit-driven marketing ploy? Absolutely. But so what? It will do some real good, and that’s what counts. Results are what matter, not intentions. This is not a new idea. As Bernard Mandeville pointed out in “The Fable of the Bees” way back in 1732, selfish intentions can generate altruistic results. As with bees, so with lemons.

When regulators bust children for learning work and business skills while having fun outdoors, they teach children the wrong lesson. By helping to set matters right, Country Time is helping children learn that it’s okay to show initiative, and that it’s okay to stand up to authority when you’re right and they’re wrong. Even the most hardened anti-capitalist can get behind that.

Also deserving kudos: Domino’s Pizza, for filling in potholes on its delivery routes that lazy local governments let linger. Who will build the roads? Now we know.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

The week’s big headlines were about the G7 meeting and our allies’ efforts to avoid a trade war, and the meeting with North Korea in Singapore. But behind the scenes, agencies issued 46 proposed regulations and 80 final regulations, ranging from milk handling to microneedles.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 80 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 58 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 6 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 1,437 final regulations in 2018. At that pace, there will be 3,201 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 3,236 regulations.
  • Last week, 1,286 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,144 pages the previous week.
  • The 2018 Federal Register totals 27,115 pages. It is on pace for 61,070 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Two such rules have been published this year, none in the last week.
  • The running compliance cost tally for 2016’s economically significant regulations is $215 million.
  • Agencies have published 48 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year.
  • In 2018, 248 new rules affect small businesses; 13 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

For more data, see “Ten Thousand Commandments” and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

Media Appearances

Trade and regulation have both been hot issues lately. Since those are two of the main issues on my beat, I’ve been pretty busy lately:

  • Inside Sources is syndicating an op-ed arguing that America’s classical liberal institutions are stronger than Trump’s passing populist fancy.
  • CEI press release on President Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs.
  • Which was quoted in an Investor’s Business Daily editorial.
  • And in City AM, a daily newspaper in London (see p. 3, cont’d from a story on p. 1).My recent post about Trump economic adviser Peter Navarro was quoted on CNN. Don’t know what day or which program, but one of my colleagues sent along the following transcript:

[00:25:07] To put it another way, it cost about $400,000 per job saved in the steel industry. OK, and the outcome this time doesn’t look much better. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the levies could save as many as 33,000 jobs in the steel and aluminum industries, this comes at a great cost. Downstream industries that use steel and aluminum such as automobiles, construction (inaudible) will face higher costs, passed on to consumers with higher prices, could cost those other industries 179,000 jobs.

I’ll post more as they come.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

Agencies took it comparatively easy in the leadup to the long Memorial Day weekend, though the Federal Aviation Administration and Coast Guard were busy with rules for travelers and revelers, mostly in the form of airworthiness requirements and safety zones near fireworks shows and other events. Other new regulations hitting the books ranged from trans fats to wireless microphones.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 68 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 62 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 28 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 1,299 final regulations in 2018. At that pace, there will be 3,184 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 3,281 regulations.
  • Last week, 1,046 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,169 pages the previous week.
  • The 2018 Federal Register totals 24,385 pages. It is on pace for 59,768 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Two such rules have been published this year, none in the last week.
  • The running compliance cost tally for 2016’s economically significant regulations is $215 million.
  • Agencies have published 45 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year.
  • In 2018, 217 new rules affect small businesses; 11 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

For more data, see the study “Ten Thousand Commandments” and follow @10KCand @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

This Week in Ridiculous Regulations

It was a relatively slow week, with 44 proposed regulations and 62 final regulations, though the Supreme Court did rule the federal ban on sports gambling unconstitutional. New rules from the last week range from flying aliens to a cactus status.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 62 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 78 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 43 minutes.
  • Federal agencies have issued 1,231 final regulations in 2018. At that pace, there will be 3,175 new final regulations. Last year’s total was 3,281 regulations.
  • Last week, 1,169 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 2,270 pages the previous week.
  • The 2018 Federal Register totals 23,339 pages. It is on pace for 60,153 pages. The all-time record adjusted page count (which subtracts skips, jumps, and blank pages) is 96,994, set in 2016.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Two such rules have been published this year, none in the last week.
  • The running compliance cost tally for 2016’s economically significant regulations is $215 million.
  • Agencies have published 44 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” so far this year.
  • In 2018, 200 new rules affect small businesses; 11 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

For more data, see the study “10,000 Commandments” and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.