Obama regulatory chief calls for curbing 'cumulative burdens'

Cass Sunstein, Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein, Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs AP

The Obama administration’s top regulatory officer on Tuesday instructed agencies to take steps to reduce the “cumulative burden” of federal rules on the private sector, particularly small businesses.

Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, described nine items for consideration in a letter to heads of departments and agencies. He called the new memo, which updates a January 2011 executive order from President Obama, “another major step forward” in streamlining regulations.

“Agencies should avoid unintentional burdens that could result from an exclusive focus on the most recent regulatory activities,” Sunstein wrote in the memo. “In some cases, the addition of new rules and requirements has unfortunate cumulative effects,” he added in the White House blog . “Taken in isolation, a new rule may seem perfectly sensible, but it may overlap with existing requirements. The sheer accumulation of regulations can cause real harm, especially for small businesses and startups.”

The steps agencies should take in response include:

  • Engaging with state, tribal and local governments early on; ;
  • Consulting with affected stakeholders before proposing new rules;
  • Considering the cumulative effects of regulations on small businesses and startups;
  • Looking at the relationship between new regulations and those already in effect during the cost-benefit analysis;
  • Aligning the requirements of new and existing rules to eliminate inconsistency, excessive cost and redundancy.

Sunstein also said agencies will be reaching out to the public on the effort to avoid unnecessary rules and redundant requirements.

Jessica Randall, a regulatory policy analyst at the nonprofit OMBWatch, told Government Executive her group is disappointed in the memo’s focus on procedures. “It’s about getting rid of old and redundant regulations, but we don’t see a corresponding effort to have agencies get out the regulations on public protections on a quick or efficient schedule,” she said. “It’s troubling that this is how they’re spending their time.”

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