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From Products Liability Law Daily, January 13, 2015

Bill to curb regulatory costs introduced in House

By Joe Bichl

At the start of the 114th Congress, Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Collin Peterson (R-Minn.) introduced a measure that would reform the process by which federal agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission, analyze and formulate new regulations and guidance documents. According to the bill’s sponsors, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 185) would require that agencies adopt the least costly method to effectively implement these regulations. During the 113th Congress, the House passed the RAA as part of a jobs and economic growth package.

Under the bill, agencies would have to produce estimates of all the direct, indirect, and cumulative costs and benefits of proposed rules and do the same for any potential alternatives. In addition, the RAA would require that agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have their work subject to review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

In a statement to the press, Rep. Goodlatte said: “The Regulatory Accountability Act addresses the problem of escalating, excessive federal regulatory costs in a clear, commonsense way that we can all support. This legislation directs the Executive Branch to fulfill its statutory goals set by Congress and requires simply that they reach those goals in the least costly way with better public input to find the most efficient regulatory solutions.”

Rep. Peterson maintained that the bill would “streamline and bring transparency to the regulatory process, ensuring that our farmers, ranchers and small businesses are not regulated out of business. Increasing transparency and accountability will give those who will actually feel the impact of proposed regulations, rather than Washington bureaucrats, a larger voice in the process.”

Consumer groups oppose bill. Meanwhile, a coalition of consumer safety advocates have denounced the measure, arguing that it is “designed to undermine our nation’s environmental, public health, workplace safety and consumer financial security protections – not improve them.”

The coalition, including the Consumer Federation of America, Public Citizen, and the Center for Effective Government, among others, maintained that the RAA would “rewrite dozens of laws,” including the Clean Air Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act, and the Food Safety Modernization Act, and would “hamstring” agencies by subjecting their work to the review of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The coalition stated that ORIA is “infamous for delaying, diluting and blocking important new safeguards.”

The coalition also argued that the RAA would allow industry lobbyists to “second-guess the work of respected scientists through legal challenges, sparking a wave of litigation that would add even more costs and delays to the rulemaking process.”

Rachel Weintraub, Legislative Director and General Counsel of the CFA, said in a press release that the bill “handcuffs federal agencies and poses a significant threat to consumer protection, health and safety. If adopted, H.R. 185 would waste federal resources, minimize the ability of federal agencies to do their jobs to protect the public and ultimately harm American consumers.”

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