Sen. Warner Drafting Legislation Mandating Regulatory Pay as You Go

By James Hamilton, J.D., LL.M., Principal Analyst, CCH Federal Securities Law Reporter; and CCH Derivatives Regulation Law Reporter; Co-author, Sarbanes-Oxley Manual: A Handbook for the Act and SEC Rules, Dec. 15, 2010.

Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., a key member of the Banking Committee, is drafting legislation requiring federal regulatory agencies to eliminate one outdated or duplicative regulation of the same approximate economic impact for each new rule they want to enact. In his view, this regulatory pay-go would discourage agencies from continually adding new rules, provide balance, and simplify or eliminate outdated rules and procedures. The legislation would also require federal agencies to produce a baseline catalogue of their existing regulations and a credible, quantifiable estimate of the economic impact for each one. The Office of Management and Budget would have primary responsibility for these estimates, and the Congressional Budget Office or the Government Accountability Office would be given responsibility for checking the math and verifying the underlying assumptions. The federal regulators would also be required to report their proposed actions to Congress so lawmakers can review the merits of the agency’s arguments for eliminating significant regulations.

The legislation is needed to make the United States globally competitive, said Sen. Warner, since the United Kingdom has been engaged in regulatory reform since 2005 and has posted some impressive results in developing an inventory of regulations as well as setting ambitious targets for reducing red tape. Britain calls its initiative “one-in, one-out,” he noted, and whatever the United States ends up calling its regulatory reform program, the bottom line is that this effort would go a long way toward addressing the uncertainty that has kept the U.S. business community from participating more fully in the nation’s economic recovery.