Experts Address Challenges, Opportunities for Regulatory Reform

Earlier this week, regulatory experts and policymakers met in Washington, DC to discuss the effects of regulation on entrepreneurs and the poor. Led by opening remarks from Eileen Norcross, Vice President of Policy Research at the Mercatus Center, and Senator James Lankford (R-OK), the program featured two panels outlining the regulatory challenges and potential solutions to those challenges facing policymakers.

Sen. Lankford highlighted the importance of Congress’s role in the regulatory process, noting that not only do legislative powers reside within Congress, but that oversight authority of responsibilities delegated to agencies should be a high priority.

He also stressed the importance of oversight even for independent agencies, adding that their independence should not be from Congressional oversight or accountability.

Finally, Sen. Lankford stressed that regulatory processes, like advanced notices of proposed rulemakings, are important steps in good regulatory decision making, and highlighted the challenges small businesses may face from regulatory requirements, even when exempted from certain rules.

As moderator of the first panel, Director of the Mercatus Program for Economic Research on Regulation Patrick McLaughlin began by emphasizing the importance getting regulators to think first about the problems they hope to solve before finalizing regulations. McLaughlin noted that technology or other innovations can sometimes solve the same problem a regulation is aimed at addressing.

Derek Moore, Attorney Advisor for the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission, agreed with McLaughlin, using ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft as examples where technology has addressed some of the concerns that originally led to taxicab regulation.

Professors Rutherford B. Campbell of the University of Kentucky School of Law and Dustin Chambers of Salisbury University’s economics department emphasized the disproportionate effects regulations can have on small businesses. Campbell noted that 20 to 25 percent of all employment in the United States comes from small businesses, and Chambers described his use of RegData to demonstrate how large business are able to “weather the regulatory maze” more easily than small businesses. That disadvantage shows up in lower rates of new business formation.

According to the panel, regulations typically raise prices and act as a regressive tax in terms of their effects on low-income households.

The second panel, moderated by Executive Vice-President and Chief Strategic Officer of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business Laura Jones, focused on positive steps policymakers can take to improve the regulatory system.

Kevin Falcon, Former Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier, described his work to institute dramatic regulatory reforms in British Columbia, identifying key examples of duplicitous or outdated regulations that regulators were able to remove without sacrificing public health and safety.

Anthony Campau, Chief of Staff and Counselor, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and Scott Brinkman, Secretary of the Executive Cabinet for Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, described federal and state regulatory reform efforts. Campau described efforts related to Executive Order 13771, and Brinkman described Kentucky’s Red Tape Reduction Initiative, an effort by the Governor’s office to review the more than 4700 administrative regulations in the state and repeal or replace any found to be costly, ineffective, or outdated.

The panel also identified stakeholder engagement as key to regulatory reform, noting that policymakers and business owners alike must play a role in educating citizens and consumers about the regressive effects of regulation.