Shining a Light on the Regulatory Process

Each year Washington imposes thousands of pages of rules and regulations on America’s local governments and small businesses. Hidden in those rules are costly mandates that stretch state and city budgets and make it harder for employers to hire.

In 1995, members from both parties got behind, and President Bill Clinton signed, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA), which sought to expose Washington’s abuse of unfunded federal mandates. However, over the years, weaknesses in the original legislation have been revealed — weaknesses that some government agencies and independent regulatory bodies have exploited.

It is well past time to correct these oversights and put some weight behind UMRA to ensure no government body, purposely or accidentally, skirts public scrutiny when jobs and scarce resources are at stake.

H.R. 50, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act, which we call UMITA, would shed light on how federal policies impact the budgets of state and local governments and private sector employers. By fixing loopholes within UMRA, this bipartisan legislation would improve transparency and public disclosure of the true cost — in dollars and in jobs — that federal dictates pose to the economy.

There are some who may not understand why a bill to improve the regulatory process is also a bill about jobs. As a former small business owner, I know firsthand how confusing rules affect the ability of job creators to conduct business as well as continue to provide jobs and opportunity to their employees. The ever-expanding regulatory framework has stifled job creation by punishing entrepreneurs and micromanaging innovation.

Regulators should know exactly what they are asking the American people to pay, and whether the costs of compliance might make it harder for a family business to meet payroll and stay afloat. At the very least, lawmakers and unelected regulators should know the price of their dictates. So, too, should the people, private enterprises and governments being asked to foot the bill.

UMITA shines much needed light on the murky regulatory process and ensures the public has transparent access to new rules and regulations. Ultimately, it is about transparency and accountability, something Democrats and Republicans can support with equal fervor.

Asking the federal government to disclose the costs of a mandate in addition to its benefits should not be controversial – it’s just plain common sense.

— Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)

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