On behalf of the AFL-CIO, I am writing to express our strong opposition to H.R. 185, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015. This legislation would upend more than 40 years of labor, health, safety and environmental laws and threaten new needed protections. The AFL-CIO urges you to oppose this legislation.
The Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) is drafted as an amendment to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but it goes far beyond establishing procedures for rulemaking. The RAA acts as a “super mandate” overriding the requirements of landmark legislation such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act and Mine Safety and Health Act. The bill would require agencies to adopt the least costly rule, instead of the most protective rule as is now required by the OSH Act and MSH Act. It would make protecting workers and the public secondary to limiting costs and impacts on businesses and corporations.
The RAA will not improve the regulatory process; it will cripple it. The bill adds dozens of new analytical and procedural requirements to the rulemaking process, which will add years to the process. The development of major workplace safety rules already takes 6–10 years, even for rules where there is broad agreement between employers and unions on the measures that are needed to improve protections. The RAA will further delay these rules and cost workers their lives.
The RAA substitutes formal rulemaking for the current procedures for public participation for high impact rules and for other major rules upon request. These formal rulemaking procedures will make it more difficult for workers and members of the public to participate, and give greater access and influence to business groups that have the resources to hire lawyers and lobbyists to participate in this complex process. For agencies that already provide for public hearings, such as OSHA and MSHA, the bill would substitute formal rulemaking for the development of all new rules, overriding the effective public participation processes conducted by these agencies.
H.R. 185 would subject all agencies – including independent agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to these new analytical and procedural requirements. It would be much more difficult for agencies to develop and issue new financial reform rules and consumer protection rules required under recently enacted legislation.
The legislation doesn’t just apply to regulations; it would also require agencies to analyze the costs and benefits of major guidance documents, even though these documents are non-binding and have no legal force. Guidance documents are an important tool for agencies to disseminate information on significant issues and hazards quickly in order to protect the public and workers. For example, in response to the Ebola virus threat, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued critical guidance documents in order to prevent the spread of disease, including recommendations for infection control and protections for healthcare workers and emergency responders. Under the RAA’s provisions, CDC would be required to assess the costs and benefits of these major guidance documents, making it virtually impossible to provide information and recommendations in a timely manner.
The Regulatory Accountability Act would further tilt the regulatory process in favor of business groups and others who want to stop regulations, and make it much more difficult for the government to protect workers and the public. The AFL-CIO strongly opposes H.R. 185 and urges you to vote against this damaging legislation.
William Samuel, Director
Government Affairs Department