This article was authored by Reeve T. Bull, ACUS’s Research Director.
The last several years have witnessed numerous important developments relating to the American regulatory state. Shortly after his inauguration, President Donald Trump issued two executive orders, 13,771 and 13,777, that require agencies to cull outdated regulations more actively and reduce the overall regulatory burden, and the President has recently undertaken reforms related to the structuring of agencies. The courts have also handed down a number of important decisions in the administrative law arena, holding that certain agency adjudicators are "inferior officers," expanding regulatory benefit-cost analysis requirements, and asserting the importance of separation of powers.
Over this same period of time, Congress has also been active in producing numerous pieces of draft legislation that would reform the administrative state in a number of significant ways. These initiatives date to the early days of the Obama Administration, and the pace of legislative reform efforts has not slackened during the Trump Administration. As of yet, no major regulatory reform bill has passed, but members of Congress have introduced well over 100 bills in the last several sessions.
Though each bill is unique, a number of common themes emerge. First, several of the bills would expand the outreach that agencies must undertake prior to and after finalizing a rule, requiring the issuance of advance notices of proposed rulemaking in certain cases, imposing trial-type procedures for high-impact rules, and enhancing opportunities for stakeholders to comment. Second, several bills would require agencies to conduct retrospective review of their existing regulations. Third, many of the bills would require agencies to produce benefit-cost analyses justifying their rules and would subject those analyses to review in the courts. Finally, several bills would reverse the trend of delegating expansive powers to the administrative state, enhancing the President’s oversight role or requiring explicit Congressional approval of major rules before they take effect.
As a service to members of Congress, Congressional staff, agency officials, practitioners, and scholars, the Administrative Conference staff has compiled and regularly updates a list of reform bills put forward in the last several sessions of Congress. On July 13th, the Conference staff issued a revised version of that list, which includes all bills introduced on or before that date. The Conference staff will continue to update this list on a periodic basis going forward in the hope that it will continue to prove valuable both for policymakers and interested members of the public.