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Wicker Urges Regulatory Transparency from Obama Administration

Small Businesses Deserve to Know Full Impact of Costly New Rules

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mississippians are ready for Congress and the President to forge a budget plan that will put our economy on a sustainable path.  For families and small businesses, the possibility of higher taxes next year means an uncertain financial future.

Preventing the upcoming “fiscal cliff” of harmful tax hikes and drastic defense cuts is only part of the task ahead.  The long-term goal of a lasting economic recovery also demands addressing other serious obstacles to economic growth, such as onerous regulations.

Atmosphere of Uncertainty

Costly regulations under the Obama Administration have created an atmosphere of uncertainty for job creators.  Many small business owners worry about how to comply with the President’s massive health-care law or excessive rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The National Federation of Independent Business estimates that more than 4,100 new regulations are currently in the works.  According to the American Action Forum, this year’s regulatory burden is expected to top $256 billion.

Administration Flouts Federal Law

In recent weeks, news reports have highlighted the lack of transparency and openness in the Obama Administration’s regulatory agenda.  The Administration has failed to submit regular reports outlining new rules that are likely to have a major impact on small businesses.

Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, federal agencies are required to publish a regulatory outlook in the Federal Register in April and October every year.  However, the Obama Administration has not fulfilled this legal obligation since the fall of 2011.

As National Journal reported in November, this is the longest period of time between regulatory reports since 1994, when the deadlines were created.  Not surprisingly, many small business owners fear an onslaught of unpopular and costly rules is looming.

Worrisome Health-Care Mandates

The President’s health-care law is a primary driver of the growing concern.  More than 13,000 pages of regulations have emerged since Obamacare was enacted in 2010.  According to the Administration’s own estimates, as many as 80 percent of small businesses could drop their current insurance plans because of the new regulations.

Reining in EPA Power Grabs

Likewise, an increasingly powerful EPA continues to propose rules that have sweeping economic impacts.  For example, stricter controls on power plant emissions that have nothing to do with cleaner air are putting jobs at risk and higher energy costs on the horizon.

In today’s tough economic climate, it is troubling that unwarranted regulations are adding another burden on job creators.  Last year, EPA Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus indicated in congressional testimony that the agency’s rulemaking did not take job losses into consideration.  Similarly, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has suggested that regulations are a way to “level the playing field” by making some energy sources more expensive.

Congressional oversight can help rein in these executive power grabs.  I introduced the Restoring the 10th Amendment Act to check the excesses of the federal government.  The legislation would allow states to challenge rules proposed by federal agencies before they go into effect if these rules infringe states’ rights under the 10th Amendment.  Curbing bureaucratic overreach and minimizing regulatory uncertainty are important to rebuilding the confidence our job creators need to fuel an economic turnaround that lasts.

December 2012 Weekly Columns