U.S. House passes REINS Act

The measure, passed by a vote of 232-183, would require Congress to vote up or down on any regulation deemed to have more than $100 million in impact on the U.S. economy.

If you aren’t familiar with REINS, please read my Spotlight here. It’d be a great idea for North Carolina and put the state on the vanguard of regulatory reform among the states.

As I wrote back in January,

A REINS approach in North Carolina would restore accountability to rule-making in a key way. At present, the system is heavily biased in favor of expanding regulations, including major regulations …. The JLF study linked above found that, of the 6,510 permanent rules introduced between 2004-05 and 2008-09, only 218 were subject to legislative review, leading to just 28 bills to disapprove them. Just seven of those bills passed. In other words, only about one-tenth of one percent of regulations was ultimately blocked.

No (major) regulation without representation!

REINS for NC would reverse the bias. Any proposed major rule would require approval by the General Assembly — meaning it would have to be compelling enough to survive the deliberative process and be approved or at least allowed by the governor — within a set period of time (e.g., 70-90 legislative days) or it would die. The legislature would not be obligated to draft approval legislation, but if it did, a vote to approve would not, it is important to note, be an enactment of the rule into state law, but rather a grant of legislative authority to the agency to proceed with the proposed major rule under the regulatory process.

By requiring major rules to be approved by elected representatives directly accountable to the voters, REINS for NC would also offer two other, preemptive improvements. It would incentivize legislators to write clearer, more narrowly focused bills, given that any excessive interpretation by agencies would return to them for votes anyway. It would also incentivize the agencies to write better rules clearly within their statutory authority.

Here’s what the Competitive Enterprise Institute has to say about the House passage:

Wayne Crews, vice president of policy and director of technical studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, had the following to say about legislation to require Congress to vote on the most expensive federal regulations:

“The most important element of controlling the regulatory state is to make Congress directly accountable for every dollar of costs agencies impose on the public, preferably by requiring Congress to vote to approve agencies’ final rules.”

This quote is not new. It appeared in 1996 in a Washington Post story on “10,000 Commandments,” Crews’ annual look at regulatory costs and their impact on the economy.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...