Federal regulatory agencies should be required to estimate and publish projected costs, benefits and other impacts of proposed regulations before those regulations can be issued, a congressional committee recommended today.
After two years of study, the Senate Government Affairs Committee today released the sixth and final volume of its report of federal regulation, which also questioned the effectiveness of regulation of the trucking industry.
Committee Chairman Abe Ribicoff (D-Conn.) and ranking minority member Sen. Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.) said they would follow release of the report with the introduction of legislation implementing mandatory econimic analysis of all proposed regulations.
"Government regulation has grown dramatically," Ribicoff said. "Today people are questioning what government can and should do. This questioning, combined with persistent high inflation, has increased our awarenss of the need to carefully reexamine regulation."
Percy said the American people "want to dampen inflation and cut back on wasteful government and needless regulation."
In requiring agencies to chart the costs and benefits of proposed rules, Percy said, "we can help stem the federal government's own substantial contribution to inflation."
The economic impact analysis recommended by the committee would be a two-step process. First, a draft impact analysis would be published with the proposed regulations for public comment. Such a draft would include a statement of purpose for the proposed action, and a list of the practical alternatives, including preliminary estimates of effectiveness and consequences of each alternative.
After public comment has been filled, the agency would make its decision, issue and publish the new regulation, and accompany that final rule with a final impact analysis.
The committee report stressed that an economic impact analysis "would not be the sole basis to decide whether or not a regulation was issued," and noted that there would be difficulties in applying regulatory analysis to health, safety and environmental programs.
"Benefits are harder to measure in those areas," the committee said. "For those reasons, even if the costs exceed the benefits, the regulations may still be issued if they involved the life and health of the American people."
In the specific area of trucking, the committee estimated that regulation of that industry by the Interstate Commerce Committee increases the cost of trucking by between $1.4 billion to $2.9 billion each year.
The report was particularly critical of ICC rules that force truckers to haul partial loads or drive with no loads at all.
"There ICC regulations do not improve anybody's health or protect anyone's life and limbs," Ribicoff said. "The only thing they do is increase the cost of interstate trucking."