Legislation Seeks Creation of Commission to Overhaul Federal Regulations

Posted 31 July 2013 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC 

New legislation introduced in the US Senate seeks to establish a legislative commission to collect input on federal regulations, with the goal of eventually streamlining, consolidating and repealing regulations that are seen as inefficient, redundant or ineffective.

The Regulatory Improvement Act

The legislation, the Regulatory Improvement Act (RIA) of 2013, calls for the creation of a "Regulatory Improvement Commission," would specifically target regulations that have not been updated or created within the last 10 years.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, has many regulations that have been on the books since the late 1990s, including many related to current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs). Under Executive Order 13563, which tasked all federal agencies to collect information about regulations with the intent of updating them to reflect changes in technology or common sense, FDA has already committed to updating 27 of its regulations, many of which could attract the attention of the commission if it is ever created.

As to the details of the commission, the legislation says it will be composed of nine members: One appointed by the president; two appointed by the Senate majority leader; two appointed by the Senate minority leader; two appointed by the Speaker of the House; and two appointed by the House minority leader.

No more than five members of the commission could be from the same political party, though this leaves open the unlikely possibility of third-party appointments (e.g. registered libertarians). Members would serve until 90 days after the submission of its report.

Making Recommendations

The commission will, in addition to expressing its own opinions, also be charged with collecting opinions from the public at large. Citizens-including members of industry-could submit written recommendations with respect to regulatory actions, with comment periods lasting 60 days after the initiation of the public comment process.

Once those comments are collected, the commission would then be tasked with conducting its own analysis, according to the bill. "In examining covered regulations under this section, the Commission shall determine the effectiveness of individual covered regulations, by using multiple resources, including quantitative metrics, testimony from industry and agency experts, and research from the staff of the Commission" the bill states. That process would result in a report "not later than 180 days after the date on which the Commission determines which sector or area of covered regulations to examine," and include recommendations on new legislation, regulatory improvements, and general conclusions.

Approval of any report would be contingent upon the vote of five or more commission members.

Unusual Legislative Authority

The most interesting aspect of the commission, however, may well be the direct line it has to the legislative process. If a report is approved, any bill drafted by the commission-likely some sort of regulatory reform omnibus bill-will be introduced in the Senate and the House and cleared of most potential hurdles outside of debate-an extraordinarily unusual authority.

If a bill is ultimately passed, the president will be responsible for requiring any regulatory agency to make changes within 180 days of the bill's passage. There are no penalties associated with a failure to do so, however.

In addition to its legislative authorities, the commission would also be permitted to hold hearings and receive testimony much as any normal legislative committee might. However, the commission is not a legislative committee-something made clear by its ability to "accept, use and dispose of gifts or donations of services or property."

The legislation is being sponsored by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (D-ME).

Regulatory Improvement Act (RIA) of 2013

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