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Portman: Bill would make regulation ‘smarter’

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced legislation with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., that seeks to “make federal regulations smarter and more effective so they better support businesses, families, and job creation by modernizing the federal regulatory process that hasn’t been significantly reformed in 70 years.”

The two senators introduced the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017 on Wednesday, and already many trade organizations have issued statements of endorsement. Aric Newhouse, senior vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said the legislation is “good news.”

“This is the kind of bipartisan approach to regulatory reform that manufacturers have been advocating for years. Among its key provisions are cost-benefit analysis, greater transparency, an automatic review process and evidence-based rulemaking,” Newhouse said in a statement. “Right now, manufacturers are subject to 297,696 restrictions and rules from federal regulations. The annual compliance costs can total almost $35,000 for a small manufacturer.”

Portman said he and Heitkamp have been working on the bill for the past two months, and said the legislation would bring the process of federal rule-making up to date by requiring agencies to use the best scientific and economic data available. According to Portman, that process would strengthen checks and balances and provide more accountability to the public.

“When I visit a factory or small business in Ohio, one of the complaints I hear most often from employers is that there are too many costly and unnecessary regulations that limit their ability to invest in their business and create more jobs. We need a smarter regulatory process that promotes job creation, innovation, and economic growth, while also continuing to protect public health and safety and the environment,” Portman said. “I want to thank Senator Heitkamp for her work on this legislation and urge the Senate to take up this common-sense, bipartisan bill.”

“I think back in the day when we were both first practicing law this was just gobbledygook. I think it’s getting more and more sophisticated, more and more refined, which makes it more and more possible for federal judges to look at cost-benefit analysis and understand whether best practices were utilized in coming up with those (regulations),” Heitkamp said in a news conference Thursday. “We think that what we’ve done is define the analysis in such a way that it really does professionalize that analysis.”

According to Portman and Heitkamp, the bill would require effective cost-benefit analysis; improve transparency and accountability; provide certainty for businesses, consumers and investors; create an automatic review process for major regulations; and would allow federal agency hearings on the most significant regulations.

At the conference, Heitkamp thanked Portman for his work on the bill, and noted that at one point Portman was director of the Office of Management and Budget (2006-2007), which oversees major rules from other agencies, and measures the quality of agency programs, policies, and procedures to see if they comply with the president’s policies and coordinates inter-agency policy initiatives

“This is an area that Rob knows very well. I think he brings a very balanced perspective to this because he can appreciate representing his state that environmental and safety regs all have their place, but we have to have regulation that is smart, not just rules that incur a tremendous amount of cost that don’t have any real benefit,” Heitkamp said.

In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Portman addressed possible critics of the bill who might think the bill would “somehow kill the regulatory process and prevent new regulations from being issued.”

“The reason this bill is bipartisan is because it gives the American people a voice in the regulatory process and it makes it more effective for both our economy and for our health and our safety That’s the kind of common-sense regulatory process that hardworking taxpayers expect and deserve,” Portman said. “We’ve had a lot of support for this bill, from workers all over the country, and from a wide variety of industries including organizations representing truckers, farmers, electricians and manufacturers. … It is bipartisan because it is a common-ground bill, it is a middle-ground bill.”

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