The Obama administration outlined plans today to revamp government regulations that it said would save businesses about $10 billion over five years.
The changes affect rules enforced by more than two dozen federal departments or agencies from Agriculture to Veterans Affairs, according to the administration.
“Many of the reforms focus on small business,” Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote in an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal. The initiatives “will reduce costs, simplify the system, and eliminate redundancy and inconsistency.”
Drafts of the rule changes were released in May, and today’s announcement is an update following comments from industry groups and the public.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s biggest business lobby, welcomed the administration effort, while saying more needs to be done to cut rules affecting companies.
“This lookback will not have a material impact on the real regulatory burdens facing business,” Bill Kovacs, vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs, wrote on the Chamber’s website. Still, the plan is a “worthy effort at making technical changes to the regulatory process.”
Focus on Economy
President Barack Obama, facing criticism from Republicans in Congress about his policies, is rolling out initiatives aimed at boosting job creation amid public concern that the economy is stalling. He ordered the regulatory review in January, and the final plans are being released before the president delivers an address on additional measures to spur growth, including tax cuts and spending for infrastructure projects.
Gross domestic product will grow 1 percent in the fourth quarter rather than the 2.5 percent previously forecast, and 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012 instead of 1.5 percent, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said in a note e-mailed to clients last week. Citigroup Inc. cut its 2011 growth forecast to 1.6 percent from 1.7 percent and lowered its projection for next year to 2.1 percent from 2.7 percent.
Government regulation has been a focal point of Republican critics, such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Virginia Republican said earlier this month that party leaders are preparing a package of legislation that would “reduce or eliminate regulatory barriers to job creation.”
The changes include accelerating payments on Department of Defense contracts to 60,000 small businesses and requiring the Small Business Administration to adopt a single electronic application for potential borrowers.
The Department of Health and Human Services will work to remove “unnecessary regulatory and reporting requirements” on hospitals and health-care providers to save potentially $4 billion over five years, Sunstein wrote.
Revisions by the Energy Department may save makers of commercial appliances and bathroom showerheads as much as $900 million, according to the plan posted on the White House website.
The Interior Department aims to cut the time needed to approve offshore wind projects on public lands to promote more rapid development, the department’s plan says.
The Department of Transportation will work to eliminate regulations on the railroad industry that could save about $340 million, and the Environmental Protection Agency will propose a rule to make it easier for hazardous-waste generators to report electronically, saving up to $126 million per year.
When he issued his executive order Jan. 18, Obama said the goal was to “measure, and seek to improve, the actual results of regulatory requirements.”
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