Defeating the Public Interest One Bill at a Time: The ALERT Act (H.R. 1759)

James Goodwin

April 14, 2015

Background:  Tomorrow, the full House Judiciary Committee will be holding a markup of the H.R. 1759, the All Economic Regulations are Transparent Act of 2015 (ALERT Act), sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.).  The House of Representatives considered a similar bill during its last session.  (The hearing is also noteworthy, because the committee will be marking up H.R. 427, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2015, or REINS Act.  For more information on the REINS Act, see here.)

What the ALERT Act does:  The bill would impose a series of new burdensome reporting requirements on agencies and the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) regarding the progress and impacts of the agencies’ pending rulemakings.  Once a month, agencies would have to provide detailed information about any rules that they are working on, while OIRA would have to issue an annual report detailing the cumulative costs of all rules that have been proposed or finalized during the previous 12 months.  Agencies also would be blocked from implementing their final rules for at least six months until after they have published certain information about the rules on the internet.

Why the ALERT Act is bad for the public interest:

  • The requirements that the bill imposes on agencies would be time-consuming and costly to carry out, wasting scarce agency resources and preventing agencies from carrying out their statutory missions in a timely fashion.

  • The bill would create less transparency about regulations, by inundating the public with reams of unhelpful data regarding pending regulations and their impacts.  Only the most economically powerful could meaningful sift through these data, putting the public and small businesses at a disadvantage.

  • Because the bill only presents information about regulatory costs—and no information about regulatory benefits—the effect of the bill’s reporting is to mislead the public about the value of pending agency rulemakings.   This biased presentation ensures that all regulations—no matter how beneficial to society on balance—appear to be a huge drain on society.

  • The bill would unnecessarily add a default six-month delay to all agency rulemakings.  The rulemaking process already moves too slow, resulting in needless harm to people, the environment, and the economy.

  • This bill would do nothing to address the biggest transparency problem in the regulatory system:  OIRA’s centralized review of regulations.

A detailed analysis on the ALERT Act is available here.

For detailed analyses of legislative attacks against the U.S. regulatory system, see here.

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