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Stocking Stuffers: Red Tape and American Caviar

By Cindy Skrzycki
Tuesday, December 21, 2004; Page E01

Since it's the holiday season, the Regulators asked some of those who spend their days engrossed in the minutiae of the Federal Register to take a break and stuff some stockings with messages of goodwill for the new year.

Their responses:

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John D. Graham, head of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said regulators are dreaming of stockings stuffed with a jumbo roll of red tape, a magnifying glass to read the fine print in the Federal Register, an OMB phone directory and a Chutes and Ladders game in which players race rules through OMB's review process. What OMB would like to put in stockings at the agencies: a cost-benefit test kit for home use, a group of economists tied up in a bow and a Sharper Image gizmo that measures the quality of the data that underlie rules.

Fred Webber, president and chief executive of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, wants Congress to give consumers a tax break for buying advanced-technology vehicles, such as clean-diesel hybrids and cars that run on alternative fuels.

Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, wants the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue a new vehicle-stability standard to protect motorists from rollover accidents.

Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, is hoping the Department of Agriculture will reopen the border to imports after the "mad cow" disease scare late last year. "We've been a really good industry this year. While pipers piping are always nice, this year we'd really be grateful if Santa would fill our stocking with a rule lifting the ban on Canadian cattle and beef products."

• Not so fast, said Bill Bullard, chief executive of R-Calf United Stockgrowers of America, a group of independent cattle farmers and ranchers. He wants the USDA to recognize that its "effort to prematurely re-import live cattle and beef from Canada is not scientifically justified."

Sandy Boyd, vice president of human resource policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, wants the Labor Department to overhaul Family and Medical Leave Act rules because NAM thinks employees abuse them by taking leave in tiny increments for less-than-serious conditions. "FMLA reform, FMLA reform, FMLA reform," she said. "If Santa could bring some proposed regulations, that would be most appreciated."

Peg Seminario, director of the department of occupational safety and health at the AFL-CIO, wants the Bush administration to stop acting like Scrooge and "give people back their overtime pay." She also is hoping for a new Occupational Safety and Health administrator and an administration that would reverse its trend of issuing no major safety and health standards over the past four years.

Dawn M. Martin, executive director of SeaWeb, an environmental group that promotes healthy oceans, would put in Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton's stocking "a festive platter of American -- not beluga -- caviar. American caviar provides a delicious, affordable and truly sustainable alternative." Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service did not list as endangered beluga sturgeon from the Caspian Sea, allowing continued imports of pricey beluga caviar for those holiday parties.

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