Worth Another Look: Regulations on Review

In January of 2017, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) published a list of the top 10 issues that will be before state legislatures across the nation this year. While we’re just over a quarter of the way through the two-year 2017-2018 legislative session, it’s worth a look to see what our own elected officials are doing to address each of the issues. The first topic up for consideration: the adoption and use of regulations.

Regulations are getting a bad rap, at both the federal and state level. Regulations, promulgated by agencies with oversight of the issue up for regulation, are often very technical in nature, sometimes viewed as burdensome and onerous, and believed by some to be costly and to stifle the economy at both the national and state level. In fact, from the beginning of presidency, President Donald Trump has been very clear that one of his priorities is to eliminate regulations considered to impede economic growth. Congress has started to use the Congressional Review Act to undo regulations adopted under President Obama. But what’s happening with the regulatory review process in Pennsylvania?

Under the Regulatory Review Act, and, to a degree, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Act, Pennsylvania has a lengthy process for the promulgation of most regulations with a system of checks and balances that includes review at the Office of Attorney General, the Legislature and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. Our regulatory process is visualized on a very intricate flow chart, but has served us well since its adoption in 1982.

Taking a page from the Congressional Republicans’ book, the Pennsylvania Senate GOP is advancing S.B. 561 (DiSanto, R-Dauphin), designed to ensure that any new proposed regulations that yield a cost to the state or local government or the private sector of $1 million annually be review and approved by the General Assembly as a whole. Such regulations, referred to as “economically significant regulations,” warrant this extra layer of consideration in order to “strengthen political accountability for regulatory policy and protect our economy from undue burdens on business and job creation,” according to Sen. John DiSanto. And it appears S.B. 561, which also has the support of some heavy hitters, including both the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Joe Scarnati, and the Senate Majority Leader, Jake Corman, is on the move; the bill passed the Senate in June with a vote of 29-20 and was discussed in a public hearing before the House State Government Committee.

S.B. 561 isn’t the only bill in play to address the regulatory process, but having crossed chambers, it seems to be the farthest along the legislative road to the Governor’s desk. Similar bills include H.B. 911 (Rothman, R-Cumberland) and H.B. 1237 (Keefer, Cumberland). These bills could be on the agenda for this fall; stay tuned to this blog and follow us on Twitter @BuchananLobbyists for updates.

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