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PAPERWORK AND REGULATORY IMPROVEMENTS ACT OF 2003

a speech in Congress by Rep. Doug Ose (R-CA), on

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Full Text Below, adapted from the Congressional Record.

Mr. Speaker, today, I rise to introduce a bill entitled the ``Paperwork and Regulatory Improvements Act of 2003.'' I am pleased to have six other original co-sponsors of this bi-partisan legislation, including: John Tanner; Tom Davis, Chairman of Government Reform Committee; Dennis Moore; Bill Janklow, who is the Vice Chairman of my Subcommittee; Jim Matheson; and, Paul Ryan. The bill includes legislative changes to: (a) increase the probability of results in paperwork reduction, (b) assist Congress in its review of agency regulatory proposals, and (c) improve regulatory accounting.

Background: In Fall 2001, the Small Business Administration released a report which estimated that in 2000, Americans spent $843 billion to comply with Federal regulations. This report concluded, ``Had every household received a bill for an equal share, each would have owed $8,164.'' The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates the Federal paperwork burden on the public at over 8 billion hours. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) accounts for 81 percent of the total. In its March 2002 draft regulatory accounting report, OMB estimated that the price tag for all paperwork imposed on the public is $230 billion a year.

Because of Congressional concern about the increasing costs and incompletely estimated benefits of Federal rules and paperwork, in 1996 Congress required OMB to submit its first regulatory accounting report. In 1998, Congress changed the annual report's due date to coincide with the President's budget. Congress established this simultaneous deadline so that Congress and the public would have an opportunity to simultaneously review both the on-budget and off-budget costs associated with each Federal agency imposing regulatory or paperwork burdens on the public. In 2000, Congress required OMB to permanently submit an annual regulatory accounting report. This provision requires OMB to estimate the total annual costs and benefits for all Federal rules and paperwork in the aggregate, by agency, by agency program, and by major rule, and to include an associated report on the impacts of Federal rules and paperwork on certain groups, such as small business.

From September 1997 to February 2003, OMB issued five final and one draft regulatory accounting reports. All six failed to meet some or all of the statutorily-required content requirements. Part of the reason for this failure is that OMB has not requested agency estimates for each agency bureau and program, as it does annually for its Information Collection Budget (paperwork budget) and for the President's budget (fiscal budget).

In 1980, Congress passed the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and established an Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in OMB. By law, OIRA's principal responsibility is paperwork reduction. It is responsible for guarding the public's interest in minimizing costly, time-consuming, and intrusive paperwork burden. In 1995, Congress passed amendments to the PRA and set government-wide paperwork reduction goals of 10 or 5 percent per year from Fiscal Year (FY) 1996 to 2001. After annual increases in paperwork, instead of decreases, in 1998 Congress required OMB to identify specific expected reductions in FYs 1999 and 2000. OMB's resulting report was unacceptable. In response, in 2000, Congress required OMB to evaluate major regulatory paperwork and identify specific expected reductions in regulatory paperwork in FYs 2001 and 2002. Again, OMB's resulting report was unacceptable. The bottom line is that, despite explicit statutory directives to reduce paperwork burden on the public, there have been seven years of increases in paperwork burden.

Since I became Chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs in 2001, my Subcommittee has held multiple hearings that form the basis for the provisions in the bill. These include a March 11, 2003 hearing entitled ``How To Improve Regulatory Accounting: Costs, Benefits, and Impacts of Federal Regulations,'' and an April 11, 2003 hearing entitled ``Mid-Term Report Card: Is the Bush Administration Doing Enough on Paperwork Reduction?'' The witnesses at these hearings made several thoughtful recommendations, which are reflected in the bill.

Bill: My bi-partisan bill makes improvements in processes governing both paperwork and regulations. With respect to paperwork, the bill requires OMB to have at least two full-time staff working solely on tax paperwork reduction. Currently, there is only one OMB employee working part-time on tax paperwork even though IRS accounts for over 80 percent of all government-imposed paperwork. In July 2002, the Appropriations Committee included a directive to OMB in House Report 107-575, which accompanied its 2003 Treasury-Postal Appropriations bill, to focus more of OMB staff attention on reducing IRS paperwork. In addition, I have repeatedly asked OMB to increase its staff effort devoted to tax paperwork to no avail.

Also, the bill removes unjustified exemptions from various paperwork review and regulatory due process requirements in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. This law exempted certain Department of Agriculture regulations both from the Administrative Procedure Act's due process protections for affected parties and the PRA's required review and approval by OMB. Under the PRA, OMB is charged with assuring practical utility to all information collections imposed on the public. Also, the PRA includes a public protection clause, which assures that the public cannot be penalized for not providing information in unauthorized paperwork. The Department of Agriculture has one of the worst track records in terms of compliance with the PRA. The legislative history for this 2002 law includes no justification for this significant change in regulatory and paperwork promulgation procedures.

With respect to regulations, the bill makes permanent the authorization for the General Accounting Office (GAO) to respond to Congressional requests for an independent evaluation of selective agency regulatory proposals. To date, GAO has not hired staff for this function since the law only authorized a 3-year pilot project. To assume oversight responsibility for Federal regulations, Congress needs to be armed with an independent evaluation. What is needed is an analysis of legislative history, e.g., to see if there is a non-delegation problem or backdoor legislating. Instructed by GAO's independent evaluations, Congress will be better equipped to review final agency rules under the Congressional Review Act. More importantly, Congress will be better equipped to submit timely and knowledgeable comments on proposed rules during the public comment period.

In addition, the bill requires certain changes to improve regulatory accounting. These include: (a) requiring Federal agencies to annually submit estimates of the costs and benefits associated with the Federal rules and paperwork for each of their agency programs; (b) requiring OMB's regulatory accounting statement to cover the same 7-year time series as the President's budget; (c) requiring integration into the President's budget; and (d) establishing pilot projects for regulatory budgeting. Currently, the economic impacts of Federal regulation receive much less scrutiny than programs in the fiscal budget. Requiring OMB presentation using the same time series as the fiscal budget and being fully integrated into the fiscal budget documents, Congress will be better able to simultaneously review both the on-budget and off-budget costs associated with each Federal agency imposing regulatory or paperwork burdens on the public. Lastly, the bill includes a pilot test to determine the feasibility of regulatory budgeting. This vehicle would help ensure that agencies address the worst societal problems first.

I believe that the public expects and deserves paperwork reduction results. In addition, I believe that the public has the right to know if it is getting its money's worth from Federal regulation.