House Bill Lets Big Business Write the Rules and Secretly Block Them

Measure Would Require Federal Agencies to Give Corporations a Secret Heads-Up About Proposed Rules – and Shut Out the Public

Jan. 30, 2015

Contact:

David Rosen, drosen@citizen.org, (202) 588-7742
Brian Gumm, bgumm@foreffectivegov.org, (202) 683-4812
Angela Bradbery, abradbery@citizen.org, (202) 588-7741

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lawmakers should defeat a measure the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on next week that would give big corporations even more influence over the rulemaking process than they already have while shutting out the public, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS) said today.

The Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2015 (H.R. 50) would require federal agencies to alert businesses when they are considering drafting a rule and solicit their feedback – before the public even learns there may be a rule under consideration. Businesses could block even a hypothetical future rule, and the public would never be the wiser. Industry interests don’t need special access to government regulators, the coalition maintains, yet this bill would codify that access into law.

The bill also would require agencies to perform retrospective analyses at the request of any chairman or ranking member of any standing or select committee in the House or Senate. Agencies could be forced to perform dozens, if not hundreds, of unnecessary retrospective reviews for rules that have been on the books for decades – diverting staff and resources from developing critical new safety standards. Not only would this paralyze agencies with busywork, but it would further politicize the rulemaking process.

“The Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act lets big business write the rules,” said Katherine McFate, president of the Center for Effective Government and CSS co-chair. “It doesn’t improve or streamline the regulatory process, which is already plagued by hurdles and delays. This act would make it even more difficult for agencies to implement laws enacted by Congress. It would rob the American people of critical upgrades to public health and safety standards – especially those that ensure clean air and water, safe food and consumer products, secure workplaces and a stable, prosperous economy.”

In addition, the legislation would improperly expand the scope of judicial review and require judges to assess cost-benefit analyses that they do not have the economic, technical and scientific expertise to evaluate. This unprecedented role for the courts is just a recipe for more litigation, endless delays and greater uncertainty for regulated industries and the public.

The bill also would undermine the independence of key agencies by subjecting them to a virtual veto by a White House office, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. As a result, the bill would render independent agencies independent in name only.

“We need stronger enforcement of existing regulations and an effective system of public protections that holds corporations and industry accountable for reckless and negligent behavior,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen and CSS co-chair. “The costs of deregulation should be obvious by now: the Wall Street economic collapse, various food and product safety failures, and numerous disasters including the recent Dan River coal ash spill in North Carolina and the Freedom Industries chemical spill in West Virginia. All of them demonstrate the need for a regulatory system that protects the public, not corporate interests.”

“H.R. 50 is the latest effort to cripple regulators’ ability to protect the public interest by loading them down with new paperwork requirements and enabling even more industry lawsuits,” added Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform. “This legislation would impose dozens of new requirements for analysis on the financial regulators who oversee Wall Street, and then change the law to ensure that big banks could sue to stop a regulation based on any claimed failure to meet even one of them. It would tilt the playing field even further in favor of financial sector lobbyists. This legislation would be a gift to Wall Street and would invite a resurgence of the reckless practices that caused such enormous economic damage just six years ago.”

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The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards believes in regulations that protect American workers and families. We are a national alliance of 150 consumer, labor, scientific, research, good government, faith, community, health, environmental and public interest groups representing millions of Americans. For more information about the coalition, go to www.sensiblesafeguards.org.