OMB tries to lessen the cumulative burden of regulations

Obama administration officials have given agencies some thoughts on avoiding unnecessary regulations. A new directive from the Office of Management and Budget seeks to encourage agencies to consider the cumulative effects of new rules on agencies. Rules that each do something good can be, when added together, burdensome or conflicting, Cass Sunstein, administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote on the OMBlog March 20.

In a memo issued March 20, officials directed agencies to:

  • Talk with affected groups before issuing a proposed rule to find any potential overlap.
  • Get the public involved to get its input on a rule’s effects.
  • Send out requests for information and advanced notices of a coming proposed rule before issuing that rule.

“It should be clear that a central goal of today’s effort is to promote early consultation,” Sunstein wrote. “Agencies will be reaching out to the public to promote that goal.”

When thinking about a new regulation, agencies should also think broadly:

  • Consider the effects on small businesses, a particular concern of OMB officials.
  • Integrate and simplify new and existing rules with an aim toward eliminating redundancy.
  • Make a package of proposed rules with similar content and requirements that affect one sector and coordinate the timing of their release, so as to increase net benefits.
  • Think about the interactive and overarching effects of multiple regulations affecting individual sectors. It should be part of agencies’ retrospective analysis of existing rules.

“Taken in isolation, a new rule may seem perfectly sensible, but it may overlap with existing requirements,” Sunstein wrote.

On January 18, 2011, President Barack Obama ordered a government review of existing rules. Agencies are to assess costs and benefits and seek broad participation from industry, consumers, scientists and other stakeholders at each step of the regulatory process.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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