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Regulatory Accountability Act Passes House, President Threatens Veto

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the newest version of the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) in a 250-175 vote on Tuesday. The bill reforms the government’s process for analyzing and formulating new regulations and guidance documents.

Proponents of the bill argue that it will reduce costs and increase transparency in rulemaking, while opponents fear that it will prevent agencies from growing and addressing new issues for environmental, public health, workplace safety and consumer financial security protections.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN) introduced the bill on Jan. 7 to provide a route for agencies “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.”

A press release from Goodlatte’s office called the proposal a solution to “the problem of overreaching, ill-considered, and excessively costly federal regulation.”

President Obama has threatened to veto the RAA if it passes the Senate and reaches his desk. In a Statement of Administration Policy issued Monday, the White House said that the act “would make the regulatory process more expensive, less flexible, and more burdensome.”

The statement continued: “It would require cumbersome ‘formal’ rulemaking for a new category of rules, for which agencies would have to conduct quasi-adjudicatory proceedings. It would require unnecessary Advance Notices, beyond the standard notice and comment already required, for a large number of rules, and other unnecessary procedural steps that seem designed simply to impede the regulatory development process.”

Opponents of the RAA argue that it would add many additional requirements to the regulatory process (74 by the Center for Progressive Reform’s count) and significantly slow down rulemaking, or even discourage agencies from pursuing new rules.

“Agencies already take four to eight years to promulgate any type of complex and controversial regulation, and the new requirements would add another two to three years or more to the process,” according to the Center’s CPRBlog.

“Any high-stakes rule that miraculously made it through these roadblocks would face unprecedented challenges,” said the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards. “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 — while putting the lives, health and safety of millions of Americans at risk.”

If enacted, the RAA should not affect finalization of the Food Safety Modernization Act’s major rules since it would “not apply to any rule makings pending or completed on the date of enactment,” but it would likely impact any future food-safety regulation.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain, but the proposal could have a chance of passage with the new Republican majority and possible support from moderate Democrats.

© Food Safety News
  • John Munsell

    First, please know that most of my life I ran my own meat plant, and you would be right in assuming I am NOT for big government. I am opposed to increasing the use of taxpayer dollars to expand an already enormously bloated, inefficient and unaccountable gov bureaucracy. Your article reveals the thoughts of entities which are opposed to this bill. I’ve heard the same feckless arguments by USDA meat officials for many years, as the agency monolithically resists all attempts to require the agency to be ACCOUNTABLE for its daily actions, including its policies. Although USDA Sec Tom Vilsack has stated that the agency would be transparent, history has proven that USDA’s meat inspection program is not transparent. One example is difficulties associated with attempting to obtain anything valuable via FOIA requests. On two occasions, the FOIA office lied to me when it said it could find no documents which would answer my questions. I exposed their lies on both occasions. And, when meaningful documents are provided, all pertinent evidence is intentionally redacted. Good bye transparency! Meat inspection inner workings are intentionally opaque, certainly not transparent. Current policies are already burdensome, by intentional agency design. Just as important, transparency should not be limited solely to policies, but include accountability for daily operations in the field, where accountability is practically nonexistent. Existing bureaucratic delays and lack of accountability already prove that the system needs extensive overhauling, which this bill would address. One example of agency laziness: starting in 2002, I argued that USDA/FSIS needs to trace contaminated meat back to the source of contamination. USDA laughed at my suggestion, countering that agency policies are “Science Based” (yet another lie). Finally, in an August 3, 2011 speech, Sec Vilsack stated “In 90 days, I expect the agency to announce the first step in transforming our traceback policy”. End quote. If FSIS drags its feet for 9 years while opposing common sense Traceback policies, we realize how our gov has jettisoned all accountability for its behavior and policies. Yes, if gov intentions are corrupt, unethical, ill advised and unjustified, the gov will drag its feet in suggesting and implementing policies, with a minimum of public input, totally opaque. Slow progress is caused by inept bureaucrats fearful of exposure, and paralyzed with fear of potential litigation. We desperately need fearless gov officials, who demand expedited action with integrity, regardless of the consequences. For these reasons and more, I named my Foundation the “Foundation for Accountability in Regulatory Enforcement”, or FARE. Meat inspection policies are not Fair (FARE), again by intentional agency design. If current gov bureaucrats & regulators were professional and accountable, such intended legislation would be unnecessary. John Munsell

  • DocB

    Isn’t it amazing that everybody wants to decrease regulations until it’s something they don’t agree with. If you want a good read, try this regulation. Just to give an example, this is an added definition at the end,

    “substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion in light of the record considered as a whole, taking into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from the weight of the evidence relied upon by the agency to support its decision.”
    Without researching anything else the bill is listed as 38 pages.

    • tallen2007

      OMG….