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Dec. 2, 2021 by Minor Sinclair, James Goodwin

Strengthening the 4th Branch of Government

This blog post is the second in a series outlining the Center for Progressive Reform’s new strategic direction. We published A Turning Point on Climate in October.

Over the last four decades, small government ideologues have waged a coordinated attack against government. The strategy has paid off: Public approval ratings of all three branches of government are at all-time lows.

Nevertheless, the federal government still manages to get things done on a day-to-day basis, and that is primarily due to the so-called 4th branch of government — the administrative and regulatory state that employs 2 million workers, invests trillions of dollars each year on things like air pollution monitoring and cutting-edge clean energy research, and makes rules that protect us all.

This is not to say that the administrative state hasn’t been the target of conservative attacks, too. These attacks have left federal regulatory system battered, bruised, and starved for resources. Nevertheless, the genius of its design — including such factors as a professional bureaucracy, science-based policymaking, strict transparency measures, and a commitment to public participation — has enabled it to persevere in the face of these challenges.

Simply put, the administrative state makes our lives our better, and we would …

Nov. 4, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Unless you're deeply immersed in administrative law, you may not have heard of the major questions doctrine. It's a legal theory that conservative judges have used with increasing rigor to block important regulatory initiatives. The doctrine places special obstacles on agency regulation of issues of "major economic and political significance."

In its initial outing, the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) couldn't regulate tobacco without a clear congressional mandate. Most recently, it has applied the doctrine in striking down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moratorium on evictions during the pandemic. It now seems poised to do so in a case involving EPA's power to regulate carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Unfortunately, there are a host of major questions about the doctrine's legal scope …

Sept. 10, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The Biden administration is looking to make big regulatory changes, not least regarding climate change. Yet the White House office overseeing regulations is vacant. The obscurely named Office of Regulatory Affairs and Information (OIRA) has to sign off on all significant regulations. Even the dilatory Donald Trump had nominated a permanent administrator by July of his first year. Biden's delay in filling this important office is hard to defend.

The main reason for the delay is probably that Biden doesn't have the OIRA administrator's boss in place, either. Biden's nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had to be withdrawn when her Senate support evaporated. That was on March 2, however, and there's still no new OMB nomination six months later. Maybe the reason is an inability to find a candidate who can …

Aug. 17, 2021 by Sidney Shapiro, Melissa Lutrell
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The surging COVID-19 delta variant is sending thousands of people to the hospital, killing others, and straining several states' hospital systems to their breaking point. The climate crisis is hurting people, communities and countries as we write this piece, with apocalyptic wildfires, crippling droughts and raging floodwaters. Systemic racism continues unabated, leading to vast economic and environmental injustices. It's beyond time for urgent action, but to get there, the federal government must reform the opaque, biased method it uses to evaluate our nation's public health, economic and environmental protections.

The day President Joe Biden took office, he ordered executive branch agencies to evaluate and reform the regulatory review process to “ensure swift and effective Federal action” to address the urgent problems we currently face. The administration is unlikely to live up to this goal unless the White House addresses …

July 6, 2021 by James Goodwin
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The White House is asking for input on how the federal government can advance equity and better support underserved groups. As a policy analyst who has studied the federal regulatory system for more than a dozen years, I have some answers — and I submitted them today. My recommendations focus on the White House rulemaking process and offer the Biden administration a comprehensive blueprint for promoting racial justice and equity through agencies’ regulatory decision-making.

To put it bluntly, the U.S. regulatory system is racist.

Key institutions and procedures throughout the rulemaking process contribute to structural racism in our society, resulting in policies that exacerbate racial injustice and inequity. We can’t have truly equitable regulatory policy unless and until these features of the regulatory system are reformed or eliminated.

To make good on its promise to advance equity, the Biden administration must overhaul two interrelated components of …

June 25, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Even most lawyers, let alone the rest of the population, are a bit fuzzy on how the regulatory system works. As the Biden administration is gearing up to start a slew of regulatory proceedings, here's what you need to know about the process.

Issuing Regulations

Q: Where do agencies like EPA get the power to create regulations?

A: EPA and other agencies are created by Congress. They also get the power to issue regulations from laws passed by Congress. For instance, the Clean Water Act tells EPA to issue regulations based on the "best available technology" for controlling the discharge of toxic water pollutants.

Q: Who decides whether an agency should start the process to issue a new regulation?

A: Some statutes set deadlines and require agencies to act. In those situations, a court can intervene …

April 27, 2021 by James Goodwin
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President Joe Biden's April 28 speech to a joint session of Congress — his first major address since his inauguration — offers him a chance to outline and defend his policy priorities. He should use this opportunity to articulate a positive vision of regulation as an institution within our democracy and to champion the crucial role it plays in promoting the public interest.

Biden will likely focus much of his speech on his ambitious infrastructure plan, from which he can easily pivot to regulation. After all, robust regulations are essential to the success of the U.S. economy, no different from traditional "gray" infrastructure like roads, bridges, pipelines, and power lines.

Strong regulatory protections provide a foundation of trust, which is critical for keeping our economy humming. Imagine, for example, if the Biden administration's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its long overdue emergency temporary standard to protect …

March 23, 2021 by James Goodwin, Sidney Shapiro
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This op-ed originally ran in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

To paraphrase French economist Thomas Piketty, the task of evaluating new regulations is too important to leave to just economists. Yet, since the 1980s, White House-supervised regulatory impact analysis has privileged economic efficiency as the primary and often only legitimate objective of federal regulation. The regulatory reform initiative launched by President Joseph R. Biden on his first day in office creates an opportunity to reorient regulatory analysis in ways that both reformers and the public support.

Legal and policy experts object to hyper-technical regulatory analysis, and new public opinion polling indicates that voters agree.

Far from a monolithic concept, cost-benefit analysis encompasses a wide range of approaches and techniques, all with their own theoretical underpinnings and ethical commitments. Indeed, the current version of cost-benefit analysis is grounded in the conservative discipline of welfare economics and seeks …

March 3, 2021 by Sidney Shapiro
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Amid the Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) of politics these days, one fact stands out — a large majority of Americans want more regulatory protection in a wide variety of areas, according to a recent poll of likely voters.

The results are consistent with previous polls that indicate that Americans understand the importance of government regulation in protecting them from financial and health risks beyond their control. They also indicate majority support for efforts by the Biden administration to renew government regulation — as well as a stark repudiation of former President Trump’s extreme anti-regulatory agenda.

The poll, conducted in January by Data for Progress and the Center for Progressive Reform, found that a majority of likely voters favor more regulation of drinking water pollution (74 percent); consumer product safety (71percent); privacy data (70 percent); air pollution (68 percent …

Dec. 21, 2020 by James Goodwin
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In my last post, I began counting down the top ten most significant developments affecting regulatory policy and public protections from the past year. This post completes the task. The good news is some of these developments offer some hope on realizing the goals of CPR’s Policy for a Just America initiative: a sustainable future, a responsive government, and strong, effective protections for all people and the environment. Others, however, suggest that the task of realizing those goals will be an arduous one.

  1. Environmental justice takes its rightful place as a top-tier issue. At the beginning of the year, environmental justice rose to unprecedented prominence thanks to advocacy efforts behind the Green New Deal and the introduction of major environmental justice legislation by Reps. Donald McEachin (Va.) and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.). The issue took on greater urgency in May, after the alleged murder of George Floyd …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Dec. 2, 2021

Strengthening the 4th Branch of Government

Nov. 4, 2021

Major Questions About the Major Questions Doctrine

Sept. 10, 2021

Vacancy

Aug. 17, 2021

The Hill Op-ed: Regulatory Analysis Is Too Important to Be Left to the Economists

July 6, 2021

Biden White House Can Make the Regulatory System Anti-Racist. Here's How.

June 25, 2021

The Regulatory Process: FAQs

April 27, 2021

Memo to Biden: Regulation Is Infrastructure