The Regulatory Accountability Act
Stephen A. Borg  

Whether you know it or not, we have all been impacted by the secret world of the federal rulemaking process. It may be one massive rule issued by a federal agency or “death by a thousand cuts” of numerous rules over the course of numerous years, but it is no wonder that many have recently called the federal agencies the 4th branch of government. I think many of us would agree that the regulatory process is needed in some capacity, but the recent number of rules and in particular “high-impact rules” that have not allowed the public adequate input is staggering.

According to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Taming the Administrative State: Identifying Regulations That Impact Jobs and the Economy, of the federal agency rules finalized from 2008-2016, only 140 regulations out of more than 32,000 had costs exceeding $100 million and an even smaller number of 28 “high-impact rules” or regulations that each cost more than $1 billion annually. The Chamber used this analysis, which can be found here: https://www.uschamber.com/report/taming-the-administrative-state-identifying-regulations-impact-jobs-and-the-economy, to work with industry partners in Washington, D.C. including the Mason Contractors Association to introduce the Regulatory Accountability Act in the U.S. Congress. H.R. 5, the House version introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) was introduced on January 3, 2017, the first day of the 115th Congress and was quickly passed out of the House of Representatives on January 11, 2017. We were encouraged when the companion bill was recently introduced in the Senate in a bipartisan manner as Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Senator Heidi Heidkamp (D-ND), Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) followed the House’s lead and introduced the legislation on April 26, 2017.

As we have seen in our recent battle to push back on the federal rule related to exposure levels to crystalline silica coming out of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), so often federal agencies are too often able to put forth and finalize major regulations without taking the time and effort to adequately study the rules already on the books, understand the true cost of the regulation, and afford every opportunity to citizens of the country to truly impact the process and the rule. The Regulatory Accountability Act seeks to change this.

According to the U.S. Chamber, “at its core, the bill would increase scrutiny of the most expensive rules—those exceeding $100 million in annual costs—by requiring greater transparency and accountability from the federal agencies seeking to issue them.

The RAA would do so by requiring cost-benefit analysis, creating an automatic review process, and inviting public comment on the largest and most expensive rules before they can be issued. Today, businesses have no choice but to wait until after these rules are put into place to settle problems and raise objections. Even then, their only recourse is to wage costly legal battles that can take years to be settled in the courts. The RAA would enable those impacted by regulations to offer input on the front end of the regulatory process so that issues can be settled before a rule goes into effect.”

It is pertinent that we continue to make our voice heard and call our Senators for them to support this rule. No matter who is in the White House, it is imperative that the rules that their agencies are promulgating are working for the American people, not against them