Despite Presidential Orders, Agencies not Reviewing Old Regulations
President Obama has issued several executive orders during his tenure encouraging federal regulatory agencies to conduct retrospective reviews of their regulations.
According to a working paper published last week by the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University, such ex post reviews are infrequently planned or conducted by agencies.
Analysts reviewed significant proposed regulations posted by agencies in 2014 to assess whether agencies included a discussion of retrospective reviews in their proposals. The center also submitted comments on the rulemaking record making suggestions on how the agency could best incorporate plans for retrospective review at the time of the rule’s issuance.
The analysts found that while agencies included prospective evaluation of their regulations, such as cost-benefit analysis, that rulemaking often did not include methodology for measuring the effectiveness of the regulation once issued. Out of 22 regulations examined, not one included a plan for ex post review.
The paper offered three recommendations to strengthen retrospective reviews, and therefore, ultimately the measureable effectiveness of regulations:
- Agencies should always identify quantifiable and directional goals of their rules. This information is crucial for assessing whether a rule has fallen short of, met, or exceeded its intended target. Independent agencies especially should make efforts to outline what they intend for their rules to accomplish.
- After determining the goals of their rules, agencies should proactively consider how to gather the information necessary to understand whether these goals are met.
- Given the enormous estimated benefits—and, sometimes, enormous costs—that result from federal regulation, agencies should prioritize establishing strong linkages between the rules they issue and the benefits that are meant to result. This includes a consideration of mediating factors that may have accomplished goals in the absence of the rule, or undermined achievement of the stated metrics. Understanding the counterfactual and determining linkages between the rule and the measured outcomes is necessary to understand why an outcome was not achieved or to ensure that the policy itself resulted in the desired outcomes, rather than other factors beyond the agencies’ control.
Access the full working paper, authored by Senior Policy Analyst Sofie E. Miller: “Learning from Experience: Retrospective Review of Regulations in 2014.”
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