Holding's regulations bill passes House

Posted by Renee Schoof on February 27, 2014 

U.S. Rep. George Holding was the lead sponsor of a bill the House of Representatives passed Thursday intended to make federal regulations less expensive and require the government to report more frequently about them.

The Raleigh Republican lawmaker’s bill was combined with three others related to regulations in a package called the Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency (ALERRT) Act. It passed 236-179 on a party-line vote.

Holding’s portion of the bill requires all federal agencies to report each month on the regulations they plan to issue. They’d also be required to explain the reason for the rule and provide an estimate of its economic impact. Regulations not reported on time couldn’t be promulgated.

“In my district in North Carolina, small businesses are a primary driver of the economy. The businesses like many across the country are being harmed by excessive regulations,” Holding said in a floor speech on Wednesday.

“Excessive regulations mean lower wages for workers, fewer jobs and higher prices for consumers,” he added. “And oftentimes small businesses are not given enough notice about how new regulations will affect their everyday operations.”

The cost and number of regulations have gone up in the Obama administration compared to the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, he said.

“This bill is not about shutting down the regulatory process but about providing much needed sunlight and transparency,” he added.

Federal agencies issue regulations to implement laws. The administration is required to report on new regulations twice a year, but Holding said it hasn’t done that on time and there is no way to enforce deadlines.

Holding was the main sponsor of the bill. House Republican leaders combined it with three other bills: one by Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., that requires federal agencies to choose the lowest cost alternative of regulations; another by Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., aimed at curbing regulations that are the results of lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency; and one by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., that requires federal agencies to comply with laws that require them to analyze the effects of regulations on small businesses and reduce regulatory burdens on them.

The ALERRT Act is unlikely to go anywhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The Obama administration threatened a veto if it made its way to the president’s desk.

“The bill would impose unneeded and costly analytical and procedural requirements on agencies that would prevent them from performing their statutory responsibilities. It would also create needless regulatory and legal uncertainty, increase costs for businesses and state, local and tribal governments, and impede common-sense protections for the American public,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

The administration also argued that the law was unnecessary. Regulations already must follow the requirements of the laws they’re intended to implement, and there are other laws that spell out requirements. In addition, executive orders by presidents from both parties require that agencies only put out regulations if they’ve determined that the costs are justified, the OMB statement said.

Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., speaking against the bill on the House floor on Thursday, said many businesses recognize there is a role for responsible regulations that protect health and safety. He said the legislation would also erect new hurdles for people who want to petition the government to act on overdue safeguards.

“Let’s work together to improve the regulatory process rather than gut it and return our communities to the law of the jungle,” Connolly said.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., replied that the bill was needed as part of “reforms to lower the crushing cost of federal regulations.”

The Center for Effective Government, a policy research group, called the bill “one big gift to business.”

Katie Weatherford, writing on the center’s blog said the legislation was “designed to delay or halt the rulemaking process by adding time-consuming and redundant procedural hurdles, by providing regulated industries additional opportunities to delay the process, and by stripping away the public's right to petition agencies when they fail to act.”

The legislation was the second bill that Holding has gotten passed in the House. The first extends the authority of the Supreme Court police to protect court officials when they area away from the court grounds. President Barack Obama signed it into law in December.

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