Republican bills would rein in federal regulations

Rep. Lamar Smith Chairman, House Science Space, and Technology Committee
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With just a month left in 2011, the dismal economy is forcing many Americans to tighten their financial belts as the holiday season approaches.

It’s especially frustrating that the typical American worked more than two months — about 77 days — this year to pay for the cost of government regulations alone.

The American people have been hit by an onslaught of unnecessary federal regulations. From the Obama administration’s health care mandate to increasing burdens on small businesses, government regulations have stifled economic growth and job creation.

Federal regulations cost our economy $1.75 trillion each year. And the administration seeks to add billions more. By its own admission, the Obama administration’s agenda includes over 200 “major rules” — regulations that are expected to have at least a $100 million annual impact on our economy.

Uncertainty about the cost of these upcoming regulations discourages employers from hiring new employees and expanding their businesses. And these regulations go far beyond protecting the health and safety of Americans.

We need to encourage businesses to expand, not tie them up with red tape.

That’s why Republicans in Congress plan to vote on three important bills to reduce regulatory barriers to job creation and restore accountability to federal regulations: the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, the Regulatory Accountability Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act.

These bills provide limits to regulatory authority and ensure that future federal regulations are both necessary and cost-effective.

The REINS Act requires Congress to take an up-or-down vote to approve regulations that have an economic impact of $100 million or more before they can be imposed on the American people.

For decades, unelected federal officials have imposed huge costs on the economy and taxpayers through burdensome regulations. Because the officials authorizing the regulations are not elected, they cannot be held accountable by American voters.

The REINS Act enables the American people to hold their elected representatives in Congress accountable for the most burdensome regulations.

The Regulatory Accountability Act is a bipartisan, bicameral bill that ensures regulations are necessary and cost-effective. It requires agencies to do a better job of determining whether new regulations are even needed. And when regulations are necessary, the bill requires agencies to adopt the lowest-cost alternative to achieve the goals.

Small businesses are America’s most critical job creators. But small business owners often bear the brunt of these excessive regulations.

In a recent column in The Wall Street Journal, Whole Foods Market co-founder John Mackey said, “Many government regulations in education, health care and energy prevent entrepreneurship and innovation from revolutionizing and re-energizing these very important parts of our economy … Currently thousands of new regulations are added each year and virtually none ever disappear.”

And in a Gallup poll conducted just last month, nearly one-quarter of small business owners cited complying with government regulations as their greatest concern.

The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act requires agencies to identify the costs new regulations could impose on small businesses and to write the regulations in ways that reduce those costs. It also gives small businesses more opportunities to be heard as regulations are written and forces agencies to look at ways to cut the costs of regulations already on the books.

These three bills — the REINS Act, the Regulatory Accountability Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act — will restore accountability to federal regulations.

The House should pass all three to help lift the burden on small businesses and free them to spend more, invest more and produce more in order to create more jobs for American workers. Our economy depends on it.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

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Rep. Lamar Smith