Tag Archives: REINS Act

The Economist: Too Much Regulation

Sounds like writers for The Economist have been reading some of CEI’s regulatory research. From this week’s magazine:

Two forces make American laws too complex. One is hubris. Many lawmakers seem to believe that they can lay down rules to govern every eventuality. Examples range from the merely annoying (eg, a proposed code for nurseries in Colorado that specifies how many crayons each box must contain) to the delusional (eg, the conceit of Dodd-Frank that you can anticipate and ban every nasty trick financiers will dream up in the future). Far from preventing abuses, complexity creates loopholes that the shrewd can abuse with impunity.

The other force that makes American laws complex is lobbying. The government’s drive to micromanage so many activities creates a huge incentive for interest groups to push for special favours. When a bill is hundreds of pages long, it is not hard for congressmen to slip in clauses that benefit their chums and campaign donors. The health-care bill included tons of favours for the pushy. Congress’s last, failed attempt to regulate greenhouse gases was even worse.

There are lots of ways to simplify the 165,000-page Code of Federal Regulations. All new rules should have automatic 5-year sunsets, renewable by a Congressional vote. An annual bipartisan commission should comb through the books and create a package of obsolete or harmful rules for Congress to repeal. Congress should vote on all “economically significant” regulations, a la the REINS Act.

The list goes on. The sooner Congress and the President get cracking on enacting these reforms, the better off the economy — and unemployment numbers — will be.

CEI Podcast for December 8, 2011: House Passes the REINS Act

Have a listen here.

The REINS Act would require Congress to vote on all economically significant regulations — rules that cost at least $100 million per year. The House passed the bill yesterday, and now it moves on to the Senate. Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews talks about the impact REINS could have on increasing transparency and accountability. He also offers up a few more ideas for further regulatory reform.

Regulation without Representation

Congress never actually votes on most regulations. Over 3,500 regulations hit the books most years. But Congress usually passes fewer than 200 bills per year. As Wayne Crews and I explain in today’s Investor’s Business Daily, this is regulation without representation.

Only Congress, and not agencies, have the power to legislate. But that is exactly what is happening now. Bills to regulate carbon emissions, regulate the Internet, and more all failed in Congress. But agencies are enacting rules. If you can’t legislate, regulate. This is wrong.

It allows politicians to escape blame for unpopular or controversial regulations. Don’t blame me, blame bureaucrats! It also gives agencies little incentive to rein in their worst impulses. If they can do whatever they want, they will work to expand their budget and authority.

The first step in solving the problem of regulation without representation is requiring Congress to vote on major regulations. Not all regulations — 3,500 votes is a bit much. And agencies do deserve some independence on administrative affairs and minor detail work.  But requiring 200 votes on major rules costing at least $100 million each is the least Congress should do.

The REINS Act, recently introduced by Rep. Geoff Davis and Sen. Rand Paul, would do just that. There are many facets to regulatory reform. There is much more to do. But putting a damper on regulation without representation is a good start.

You can read Wayne’s and my article here.