By U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx
Each year Washington imposes thousands of pages of rules and regulations on America’s local governments and small businesses. Hidden in those rules are costly mandates that stretch state and city budgets and make it harder for employers to hire.
In 1995, members from both parties got behind, and President Bill Clinton signed, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA), which sought to expose Washington’s abuse of unfunded federal mandates. However, over the years, weaknesses in the original legislation have been revealed — weaknesses that some government agencies and independent regulatory bodies have exploited.
It is well past time to correct these oversights and put some weight behind UMRA to ensure no government body, purposely or accidentally, skirts public scrutiny when jobs and scarce resources are at stake.
That’s why I introduced H.R. 50, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act, which we call UMITA, to shed light on how federal policies impact the budgets of state and local governments and private sector employers. By fixing loopholes within UMRA, this bipartisan legislation would improve transparency and public disclosure of the true cost — in dollars and in jobs — that federal dictates pose to the economy.
There are some who may not understand why a bill to improve the regulatory process is also a bill about jobs. As a former small business owner, I know firsthand how confusing rules affect the ability of job creators to conduct business as well as continue to provide jobs and opportunity to their employees. The ever-expanding regulatory framework has stifled job creation by punishing entrepreneurs and micromanaging innovation.
UMITA would impose stricter, more clearly defined requirements for how Congress and regulatory agencies must consider federal mandates. It also would correct a glaring UMRA loophole – the exemption of independent agencies from considering regulatory costs. Additionally it would fix the problematic incentive UMRA inadvertently created for some agencies to forgo public rule disclosures in order to avoid cost evaluations.
Under UMITA, Congress and the American people would also be equipped with better tools to determine the true cost of regulations. Analyses required by the bill would have to factor in real-world consequences such as lost business profits, costs passed onto consumers and changed behavior costs when considering the bottom-line impact of federal mandates.
Regulators should know exactly what they are asking the American people to pay, and whether the costs of compliance might make it harder for a family business to meet payroll and stay afloat. At the very least, lawmakers and unelected regulators should know the price of their dictates. So, too, should the people, private enterprises and governments being asked to foot the bill.
UMITA shines much needed light on the murky regulatory process and ensures the public has transparent access to new rules and regulations. Ultimately, it is about transparency and accountability, something Democrats and Republicans can support with equal fervor.
On February 4, the House of Representatives passed UMITA by a vote of 250 to 173. It is my hope that the bipartisan manner in which this legislation passed the House will pave the way for swift consideration and passage in the Senate.
Asking the federal government to disclose the costs of a mandate in addition to its benefits should not be controversial – it’s just plain common sense.