December 1, 2011

Does OIRA Review Improve the Quality of Regulatory Impact Analysis?

Evidence from the Final Year of the Bush II Administration
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Using data from the Mercatus Center’s Regulatory Report Card project and statistics on Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) review time from reginfo.gov, we examine whether the quality and use of regulatory analysis vary consistently with OIRA actions.  First, we examine regulations with statutory deadlines.  Second, we examine differences in OIRA review time and quality of analysis for “transfer” regulations that implement federal spending or revenue collection laws.  Finally, we consider midnight regulations. We find that (1) statutory deadlines are associated with lower-quality regulatory analysis and shorter review times at OIRA, suggesting that these deadlines diminish OIRA’s quality-control function; (2) the average quality of analysis for transfer regulations scores about 47% lower and average review time about 48% lower than prescriptive regulations; and (3) the average prescriptive midnight regulation scores about 23% below the mean score for all daylight regulations, but they do not receive shorter review times at OIRA, at least under the conventional definition of midnight regulations.  This final result counters the notion that the rush to finish these regulations quickly impaired OIRA’s ability to exercise quality control, at least in 2008.