New Senate Democrat keen on reform push

May 9, 2019

New Senate Democrat keen on reform push
E & E News


Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have teamed up to reintroduce legislation aimed at clarifying how federal rulemaking affects small businesses.


The bill’s reintroduction on Tuesday was part of a flurry of bipartisan work on regulatory reform legislation this week, and more evidence of Sinema’s interest in the issue.


The “Prove It Act” would give the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy the ability to question an agency’s determination that a regulation does not affect small businesses. Agencies are required to make such an assessment under the Regulatory Flexibility Act.


Ernst, a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said regulators “too often” claim rulemaking doesn’t harm small businesses without adequately analyzing the potential effects.


“Our bipartisan bill will give Iowa’s small business community the opportunity to send agencies back to the drawing board to ‘prove’ that what they’re proposing won’t hurt small businesses,” said Ernst in a statement.


Under the legislation, federal agencies that are challenged on their regulations’ impact on small business by the Small Business Administration would have to review their assessment.


If, after 30 days, the agency determines it was been incorrect, it would have to go back and conduct a regulatory flexibility analysis on a mandate’s small business effects.


The Iowa senator has introduced the bill under previous Congresses. She points to the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule as an example of agencies not adequately assessing the impacts of rulemaking on small business.


Sinema, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management, called the legislation a “common-sense bill” that would protect against “unreasonable” regulations.


The bill is one of several examples of efforts by Sinema, a freshman, to work with Republicans on regulatory reform.


Also on Tuesday, Sinema and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) previewed a pair of bills they are co-sponsoring. One would require federal agencies to put out advance notices of proposed rulemaking to gather public comment earlier in the rulemaking process.


A second would require retrospective reviews of existing bills and would direct agencies to create a plan for how to measure the success of the rule at meeting its objectives (E&E Daily, May 8).


Sinema’s bipartisanship closely mirrors the approach of her predecessor as ranking member on the committee, former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), according to those tracking regulatory policy.


Sinema, like Heitkamp, is a moderate Democrat who supports business policies and has been skeptical of regulations, said James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform.


“None of us were surprised that she’s supporting these rules; I’m exceedingly disappointed in them,” said Goodwin.


Dan Bosch, director of regulatory policy at the American Action Forum, noted that Heitkamp had previously been a co-sponsor of Lankford’s “Early Participation in Regulations Act” and Ernst’s “Prove It Act.”


“[Sinema] is someone who historically has supported regulatory reform, even when it wasn’t necessarily popular to do so,” said Bosch, of Sinema’s actions while a House member.


“It will be interesting to see how many Democrats she can bring on board,” he added.


Wayne Crews, vice president for policy and a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, noted that Democrats had previously been involved in regulatory reform efforts in the 1990s, including in passing the Congressional Review Act.


“As for anything actually moving in the 116th, there’s no great hope, but something like her bill to have notice and comment on [advance notice of proposed rulemaking] could happen,” Crews said in an email.