THE REGULATORY Reform bill, long in preparation, is scheduled to come to the Senate floor next week in a deeply flawed form. Among its other shortcomings, this bill would make peculiar and inappropriate changes in the procedures of the monetary agencies. In particular, it would impose requirements on the Federal Reserve Board that were, apparently, drawn with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in mind. This bill --as the used-car ads say regarding the particularly dubious specimens--needs a little work. And it needs more careful reconsideration than it will get on the Senate floor.
It's an attempt to respond to the chorus of complaints from businessmen about overregulation. One important example was the succession of new rules imposed on the automobile industry in the 1970s. There were the air pollution requirements, the safety requirements and the fuel efficiency requirements--all established for good reasons, but each written with no regard for the others and no concern for the cumulative effects of all of them on an industry drifting into serious trouble. Since most of these rules were written, in great detail, by Congress itself, perhaps it will occur to you that the solution in this specific case does not necessarily lie in changing the procedures of the independent agencies. But in principle you can make a strong argument for requiring the federal government to take account of the effects of its regulations.
Unfortunately, the Senate bill attempts to do it by requiring the kind of cost-benefit analysis that, experience suggests, is more likely to produce bad statistics than good policy. Most of the agencies that generated most of the businessmen's complaints are already under an executive order, similar to this bill, that President Reagan signed a year ago. Instead, the bill would impose these standards on agencies that evidently lie far from the authors' purposes. It would apply, for example, to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Cost-benefit analysis, and White House review of rulings, will do little to improve public confidence in the independence of the NRC, or its ability to act quickly.
As for the inclusion of the Federal Reserve and the other monetary agencies, you can only shake your head. The draftsmen evidently never really meant to do it, and now there is an agreement on a floor amendment to drop them out. But it's a highly imprecise agreement, and floor amendments are always a risky way to try to fix large errors in complex legislation.
The central purpose of this bill is not a bad one. But the need for last-minute fix-ups is a signal that it has been badly drafted. The bill in its present state is dangerous. The right vote is a vote to recommit.