Thursday, August 22, 2013

Clearing away the undergrowth

One of the problems with our system of business regulation -- Congress passes a law with some fairly vague generalities, and "delegates" its authority to regulatory agencies to write the actual rules with which businesses have to comply -- is that there is no meaningful mechanism for making old regulations go away. (Or, at least, there wasn't under the Obama administration established the new precedent of selective regulatory enforcement, which would be a very powerful tool in the hands of President Paul, but that is another matter.)

Now there is a proposal that could clear away the undergrowth: The Regulatory Improvement Act of 2013, recently introduced in the Senate by Angus King (Ind - ME) and Roy Blunt (R - MO). The idea is to follow the model used to close military bases:

The legislation introduced in late July would create a bipartisan Regulatory Improvement Commission, charged with recommending cuts in the regulatory regime, and the law would require Congress to vote on the proposals. This is desperately needed. The government has few processes at its disposal through which it can re-evaluate the efficacy of outdated regulations—and many members of Congress lack the expertise, time and courage to effectively scale them back.

The King-Blunt concept is tested and has already worked remarkably well. The Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission, an independent, bipartisan commission of experts, was established in the late 1980s to reduce the number of military bases. Politics made it nearly impossible for Congress to do the job, as it was too easy for politicians to cut deals and protect each other's pork. Instead, the commission selected the bases and reported its findings to Congress for mandatory, up-or-down, nonamendable votes.

It worked. Since 1988, there have been 121 major base closures, 79 major base realignments (which may close down part of a facility or transfer personnel away from it) and 1,000 minor closures and realignments under BRAC.

Contact your Senator and Congresscritter using this handy website, and tell them what is on your mind. A good thing to do in any case! But consider as well asking them to vote for the Regulatory Improvement Act.

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