Obama widens regulatory review to independent agencies

President Obama on Monday issued an executive order asking independent agencies to join the governmentwide review searching for outdated or needlessly burdensome regulations that has been under way since a January directive.

In nonbinding language, the order said independent regulatory agencies "should consider how best to promote retrospective analysis of rules that may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them in accordance with what has been learned. Such retrospective analyses, including supporting data and evaluations, should be released online whenever possible."

Each agency is asked to report results within 120 days, "consistent with law and reflecting its resources and regulatory priorities and processes," the order stated.

Cass Sunstein, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs administrator, called the order historic as there is no other such free-standing requirement for independent agencies. "Today's action is positive step toward promoting economic growth and job creation that frees up money for small businesses to do what they do best, which is to grow and to hire people," he said during a conference call with reporters.

The suggestion for the new order, Sunstein said, came from the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and others commenting on the ongoing regulatory review. That effort has been extraordinarily successful, he said, resulting in 30 plans from agencies that "are already benefiting from public scrutiny and input." The look back at regulations has meant that "millions of hours of paperwork have been eliminated and millions of dollars have been saved," he added, with "billions more" promised in the future.

Though independent agencies were encouraged in a Feb. 2 memo from Sunstein's office to do their own review of regulations, that language had a "vagueness and indirection," he said Monday. He stressed the new order acknowledges independent agencies' current workloads and resources, and he distinguished between regulations officials are required by law to write and those, subject to the review, that they produce because they see them as beneficial.

Sunstein said he is hopeful the order will be well-received by the independent agencies.

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