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Minn. Rep. Peterson proposes jobs regulatory bill that has CEOs singing, others worried

Rep. Collin Peterson is pushing a regulatory reform package that has CEOs singing praises and good government groups concerned.

The Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011 would reform the way federal agencies make rules in order to “reduce unnecessary burdens on job creators.” Opponents of the bill, which was introduced Thursday, say it will stifle health, safety and environmental standards.

Under the proposed legislation, a new regulation would need to have advanced public notice and public comment and be based on scientific and technical evidence. Regulations would also have to undergo a cost-benefit analysis, and agencies would have to adopt the “least costly” alternatives.

The bill creates a class of “high-impact” regulations that would be subject to hearings and would be held to standards that are higher than those set for courtrooms.

“While it is difficult to enact a new law, it’s even harder to get a regulation written correctly,” Peterson said. “In many cases, interest groups try to use regulation to interpret the law in their best interest, instead of following the intent of the law. By bringing transparency and accountability to the regulatory process, the American people will be allowed to have a voice in these policy decisions.”

Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical praised the bill.

“We applaud [the lawmakers] for starting Congress down the path toward smarter regulation,” Liveris said in a statement. “America’s business leaders have identified unnecessary and overly prescriptive regulation and the overly burdensome federal regulatory process as major impediments to job creation and growth. The bipartisan Regulatory Accountability Act is a smarter approach to regulation that will meet society’s goals while lessening the economic burden of complex, expensive and often inconsistent rules.”

Liveris was speaking on behalf of the Business Roundtable (BRT), a conservative political group made up of the CEOs of major corporations such as Wal-Mart, GE and Exxon Mobil.

John Engler, president of BRT, praised lawmakers.

“The Regulatory Accountability Act is an important milestone on the road toward meaningful federal regulatory reform,” Engler said. “We stand ready to work with them to achieve smarter regulation and put America back to work.”

But Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy for the government watchdog group OMB Watch, said the bill is problematic.

“If the provisions of the proposal become law, they will result in a near-moratorium on rules by creating even more obstacles for agencies to overcome in issuing standards that keep us safe from contaminated food, product defects, and polluted air and water,” Melberth wrote. “In addition, the proposal would shift the locus of regulatory decisions to the courts and out of agencies’ hands by providing multiple new opportunities for deep-pocketed corporate interests to challenge agencies at nearly every step of the process.”

He added, “When such special favors are granted to special interests, everyday Americans are further shut out of the regulatory process, giving them less of an opportunity to participate in this essential function of democratic governance.”

The bill contains most of the provisions that the BRT has been lobbying for; on Wednesday, the day before the bill was introduced, the BRT released its own very similar plan.

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