“Have we ever repealed a regulation? I am not aware of a single one we have ever repealed. The weight of this is what is crushing these small and family-owned businesses.”
— Fiorina, speaking in Ames, Iowa, April 23, 2015
Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, is considering a run for the 2016 GOP nomination for president, and so she has been making the rounds in Iowa. The left-leaning group American Bridge 21st Century recorded some of her remarks and posted them on YouTube.
There were two aspects of her spiel that seemed a little odd. First, she said that she wanted to put every regulation on the Internet. Second, she said that no regulation had ever been repealed.
Thus, she adds, perhaps it is time to let Americans vote on the regulations, a la “American Idol”: “Maybe we should just ask the American people to vote on some of these. ‘What do you think of this regulation? Five stars we keep it, one star it’s gone.'”
So let’s check her facts.
Let’s deal with her proposal first. Apparently, Fiorina has never heard of www.regulations.gov.
The Web site was launched in January 2003, as a result of the 2002 E-Government Act. As the Web site puts it, the goal was to “increase public access to federal regulatory materials; increase public participation and their understanding of the federal rulemaking process; improve federal agencies’ efficiency and effectiveness in rulemaking development.”
Not only is every regulation available, but so are notices of proposed rules, comments and so forth. People can even set up e-mail alerts about particular regulations. “Regulations.gov removed the logistical barriers that made it difficult for a citizen to participate in the complex regulatory process, revolutionizing the way the public can participate in and impact Federal rules and regulations,” the Web site says. “Now the public can conveniently participate in the rulemaking process from anywhere.”
Under the current process, Americans can comment on regulations after they are proposed, and regulatory agencies may adjust the rule in response to the comments. If a person or company believes they are harmed by the rule, they can file a lawsuit challenging it. Fiorina appears to be suggesting that she would favor a system in which Americans could vote down rules by a sort of plebiscite.
“Yes, she is saying people would vote on existing regulations,” Fiorina spokeswoman Sarah Isgus Flores said. “It certainly makes sense that people should have a voice after they’ve seen the effects of those regulations on their lives and jobs — not just before. As for specifics on how the proposal would work, we will be releasing detailed policy proposals if she decides to run.”
Okay, what about Fiorina’s claim that no regulation has ever been repealed?
This generated some puzzlement among the regulatory experts consulted by The Fact Checker. Important segments of the economy, such as the airline, trucking and railroad industries, were deregulated in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The deregulatory push ultimately led Congress in 1995 to mothball the 108-year-old Interstate Commerce Commission, the nation’s first regulatory agency.
Susan E. Dudley, director of the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University, said that Fiorina is “generally right that regulations, once issued, are rarely revisited and even more rarely actually repealed.” But saying that none have been repealed is going too far. She pointed to the Department of Transportation’s repeal of rules governing airline computer reservation systems in 2004.
“It’s an interesting illustration because, when the rules were originally adopted in 1984, they included a sunset date, establishing the default that unless DOT determined they were still necessary in 20 years, they would expire,” said Dudley, who served as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget during the George W. Bush administration. “Most regulations don’t have such provisions.”
John Graham, dean of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, headed the OIRA in 2004, when the airline reservation rule was scrapped. He pointed to another regulation that was recently repealed.
“For many years both the auto companies and the gasoline stations were required to have [vapor recovery] equipment that controlled air emissions during refueling of a car,” he said. But in 2012, he noted, the Obama administration repealed the rule on gasoline stations because the equipment in cars (which was required starting in 1998) was doing a good-enough job of capturing vapors that contribute to smog.
Dudley noted that “every president since Jimmy Carter has directed agencies to examine existing regulations,” yet “despite this longstanding guidance, agencies focus much more on new regulations and actual repeals are rare.” She said there is not much incentive to change course and that when agencies do pay attention to the directive, they tend to revise or streamline the regulations as opposed to dumping them altogether.
Flores did not respond directly to questions about Fiorina’s specific claim that no regulation has been repealed. “This regulatory burden has increased under both parties,” she said.
The Pinocchio Test
An anti-regulatory stance might make sense for a former business executive seeking the presidency. But Fiorina needs to get her facts straight.
Important parts of the economy have been deregulated in recent decades. While the repeal of a specific rule is relatively rare, there are certainly examples. Fiorina could point out that many regulations are rarely reviewed once issued, but she goes too far to claim none have ever been repealed. We take no position on her idea to allow Americans to vote down regulations, but in speaking to audiences she should acknowledge that all regs are already on the Web and open to comment and debate.
She earns Three Pinocchios.
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