Reining In the REINS Act

Scartelli Olszewski P.C.

The REINS Act (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) would require any proposed federal regulation with an estimated economic impact of $100 million or more to be approved by Congress before going into effect. The act is on its way to the U.S. Senate, after passing the House of Representatives last month.Many federal regulations are drafted to prevent deaths and injuries to consumers and workers. To require regulations (even “only” major ones with the potential for a large economic impact) to pass both dysfunctional houses of Congress essentially will prevent them from going into effect. These regulations could improve the safety of the food we eat, the water we drink, the medicines we take and the cars we drive, not to mention improve issues such as airline pilot training or workplace safety.Proponents claim there are too many regulations holding businesses back, hindering job growth and slowing down the economy. While there are regulations whose time has passed, the baby shouldn’t be thrown out with the bath water. Regulations serve their purpose.It may be easy to calculate the cost of an air quality regulation by looking at the purchase price and ongoing costs of air pollution controls, for example. Yet it may be difficult to measure the regulation’s benefits, which could include healthier residents downwind with fewer respiratory problems, which likely will result in lower health care costs and fewer absences from work and school.According to Sally Katzen, in her blog for the Penn Program on Regulation,

In evaluating the REINS Act, it is important to understand that government regulations deliver important benefits that vastly exceed their costs. Even if one uses the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) highest cost estimates and its lowest benefits estimates, major regulations issued over the past ten years have produced net benefits of $74 billion to our society. These estimates cannot be dismissed as partisan, because even the OMB during the George W. Bush administration issued similar results showing substantial net benefits from regulations.

The REINS Act is little more than an attempt to replace a thorough regulatory process – one based on input from safety experts as well as advocates for industry and consumers – with a “Congress knows best approach,” argues the president of the American Association for Justice, Burton LeBlanc.“The REINS Act is an extreme departure from current regulatory procedures and is designed only to stymie the development of regulations with which the industry does not want to comply,” LeBlanc said in a statement after the House passed the bill.Article I of the U.S. Constitution states Congress has the power to legislate. Article II states the executive branch’s job is to enforce the laws, which is done in part by regulations. If the REINS Act is signed into law, a large portion of the regulatory and enforcement power of the executive branch would transfer to the legislative branch, carving an unwritten exception into the Constitution.The REINS Act has no hope of passing through a Senate controlled by Democrats and would be vetoed by the President if it did. But this is an illustration of the desires of many politicians to disregard the interests of those injured by any number of pharmaceuticals, other products or pollution, to the benefit of business interests.