The Relief Report

A newsletter covering regulatory reform efforts in Washington and across America, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Court, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002 (202) 543-4110, Fax (202) 543-5975, E-Mail [email protected]

Issue #34 * February 15,1996 * David A. Ridenour, Editor

Hill Watch - Regulatory relief initiatives on Capitol Hill

All Quiet on the Regulatory Reform Front? Not exactly. House Republicans are working on a regulatory reform bill that could attract broad-based, bipartisan support -- possibly even enough support to override a presidential veto. While still in its formative stages, the bill (the Small Business Relief and Accountability Act) may include variations of Senator Don Nickles' Regulatory Review Act (S. 219), a measure establishing a 45-day congressional review period for all significant agency rulemakings that was approved by the Senate last year in a 100-0 vote; Representative David McIntosh's Regulatory Sunset and Review Act (H.R. 994); and the Regulatory Flexibility Act (H.R. 926). It may also include language for comparative risk assessment. The bill could be considered on the House floor as early as the first or second week of March.

Views Across America - How Americans view regulatory relief

Retreat on Environmental Reform Could Cost GOP -- Not Help It -- Poll Suggests. On January 24, The Washington Post reported that a new poll by Republican pollster Linda DiVall suggests that continued efforts to "roll back environmental laws could cost Republicans dearly at the polls in November." But the reverse appears to be true. According to the Post, the Superfund Reform Coalition-commissioned poll found that only 21% of the public believes environmental laws have gone to far, while 36% believes they haven't gone far enough.

What the paper neglected to mention is the fact that once the poll respondents were made aware of what various regulatory reform proposals would actually do, 78% favored the GOP's five-point reform plan for hazardous waste clean-up; 45% favored the GOP's Endangered Species Act reform proposal (compared to 41% against); and 44% favored the GOP's Safe Drinking Water Act proposal (compared to 39% against).

The GOP's problem, then, appears to be far more of a problem of perception rather than substance. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, the last thing regulatory reform advocates should do right now is retreat on regulatory reform. A retreat would cede the debate to big government advocates (allowing them to speak to the press unchallenged) and send the message that environmentalists' claims about the regulatory reform agenda were right all along. Further, since Democrats have already indicated that the environment will be centerpiece of their campaign to take back Congress, the GOP's environmental record will be an issue regardless of whether or not the party continues to press for regulatory reform.

For the GOP and supporters of the regulatory reform agenda, retreat does not appear to be an option. Public perception can only be changed by facing environmental issues head-on and winning the battle of ideas.

If meaningful regulatory reform is to be achieved, reformers must train themselves to ask the following questions (in this order) about each of the reform initiatives they support:

  1. Does the regulation targeted for reform produce the environmental, health and safety benefits it was intended to produce? Unfortunately, there is no truth in labeling law that applies to acts of Congress. Reformers must make clear that the "intent" to do good is not good enough.
  2. Does the regulation have unforeseen, unintended negative consequences for the environment, health or safety? Many support regulatory reform out of genuine concern for the environment and for human health and safety, but most Americans don't know it. The Endangered Species Act needs to be changed, for example, because it establishes a system of perverse incentives that actually encourage the destruction of wildlife habitat.
  3. Are there other, less expensive, more effective means of producing the same or better results? Secondary to our concerns for the environment, health and safety, but also important is our concern for the costs to the American people. We should seek to achieve the desired results with the least government intrusion and lowest cost possible. Simply put: If we can build a better mouse trap, we should do so.
  4. Are there opportunity costs of the regulation? We must determine whether or not the cost of implementing a particular regulation means that insufficient resources are available for more dire threats. For example, what better uses could the resources used to enforce OSHA's ban on gum-chewing by roofers be put to?
  5. Is the federal government -- or state and local government -- best suited to administer the regulation? In many cases, state and local government's "customizing" of regulations can achieve better results than the federal government's cookie-cutter, one-size-fits all approach.
  6. Are the benefits of the regulation worth the economic costs? In the regulatory reform debate, this last question -- while important -- is too often the first question or the only question regulatory reform advocates ask themselves.

Bulletin Board - News from Regulatory Relief Groups

League of Conservation Voters' Environmental Scorecard Draws Protest. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) had its heart broken on Valentine's Day: The League had planned to have an enormously successful press conference on the 14th to release its annual National Environmental Scorecard. But property rights activists had other ideas: They showed up at the press conference in prison uniforms to symbolize property owners' imprisonment by excessive environmental regulations, high-jacking much of the LCV's press attention in the process. They also distributed a vote index of their own -- the Private Property Vote Index, published by the League of Private Property Owners. Following the press conference, the protestors dogged LCV leaders on Capitol Hill where the LCV planned to deliver saplings to House members who received zeros in their scorecard, with only television cameras in tow. Instead, the LCV had to share the media spotlight. Among the groups behind the demonstration were the American Land Rights Council, Frontiers of Freedom, and The National Center for Public Policy Research.

Forest Service Subsidizes Bureaucracy, Not Timber Industry, Talking Points Say. The National Center for Public Policy Research has just released a "Talking Point" card showing that the Forest Service loses money on timber operations not because it sells timber at bargain-basement prices, but due to bureaucratic inefficiency and other factors. For copies call The National Center at (202) 543-4110.

"Putting People Back Into the Regulatory Equation"

All correspondence to The Relief Report should be directed to:

The National Center for Public Policy Research * 501 Capitol Ct., N.E. * Washington, D.C. 20002
Tel. (202) 543-4110 * Fax (202)543-5975 * E-mail [email protected]

©1996, The National Center for Public Policy Research. Coverage of meetings, activities or statements in The Relief Report does not imply endorsement by The National Center for Public Policy Research


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