Acts of oversight on the horizon
As the country moves ever closer to election season, the herd of proposed bills, acts, measures, amendments and other legislative suggestions grows ever larger. Though many will be culled from the choices early on in the season, here are some to set your sights on early.
Out of all the legislative proposals, three should catch the eye of anyone concerned about the effect of regulations on jobs and the activities of environmental groups. Below is a collection of information on the bills, including name, number, a summary of its contents, and any relevant history. HR 10
Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act/ HR 10
The stated goal of this act is to increase accountability for and transparency in the federal regulatory process. If passed, it would require Congress to review and approve all new major regulations. Additionally, it would require that any agency recommending new regulations include in its report to Congress any and all impact the proposed regulation would have on jobs, differentiating between public and private sector jobs, and a cost-benefit analysis of the regulation.
The REINS Act is sponsored by Rep.
Geoff Davis, R-KY. Davis drafted the bill in response to the over abundance of regulations which, according to the Small Business Administration, costs small business owners roughly $10,500 per employee for compliance. Davis calls it an accountability check against the rampant regulation-making of non-elected government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Davis introduced the act Jan. 20, 2011. Since then, the bill has been referred to and been reported on by two committees and has passed the House. It is currently awaiting Senate consideration. It has been co-sponsored by 204 House representatives and has undergone several amendments.
Davis has a section of his official website set aside for the REINS Act at geoffdavis.house. gov/reins/. HR 1341
Establishing Public Account ability
This proposed act is something of a distilled version of the last, but specifically focusing on EPA. The Establishing Public Accountability Act would, if passed, require EPA to include projected impacts on domestic private sector jobs in notices of their rules. Additionally, the act would require EPA to disclose the means by which it conducted its analysis to reach a rule’s projected jobs impact.
The act is actually a very brief amendment Title 5 of the United States Code and would largely clarify existing language such that the meaning reflects the above summary.
The bill was introduced to the House by Rep. Pete Olson, R-TX, on April 4, 2011. It currently has 24 co-sponsors and has been referred to committee. The committee has not yet reported on it but it is still considered live. S 1061/HR 1996
Government Litigations Savings Act
The Government Litigations Savings Act, which has both House and Senate versions, proposes a number of amendments to the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), most notably who can apply for EAJA funds and how much can be awarded to litigators.
The bill, if passed, would put a couple key limits on who could apply for the taxpayer-funded EAJA funds. Among the most relevant is the limitation on agencies with a net worth of over $7 million from seeking public funds. Additionally, only those parties with “direct and personal monetary interest in an adjudication” could be awarded coverage of fees and other expenses.
The act would also limit the amount of compensatory fees which could be paid to prevailing litigators and would deny fees if the prevailing parties were judged to have acted “in an obdurate, dilatory, mendacious, or oppressive manner or in bad faith.” According to the Library of Congress summary, the act would limit awards to not more than $200,000 in any single adversary adjudication or for more than three adversary adjudications in the same calendar year.
The Senate version of the act is sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso, R-
WY. According to Barrasso, the act will curtail the frivolous lawsuits brought by environmental groups and return EAJA to its original intent.
“When the government stopped tracking EAJA payments in 1995, it was a dream come true for radical environmental groups. Lack of oversight has fueled the fire for these groups to grind the work of land management and other federal agencies to a halt—and it does so on the taxpayer’s dime,” said Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-WY, author of the House version. “This common sense legislation would help restore integrity to EAJA and return the program to the original intent of Congress.”
According to research by a Wyoming law firm, 14 environmental groups have brought over 1,200 federal cases in 19 states, and have collected over $37 million in taxpayer dollars through EAJA since payment tracking stopped in 1995. Those numbers do not include settlements, and fees sealed from public view. This act is an attempt to correct this.
Both versions of the act were introduced May 25, 2011. Since then, the House version has been referred to and reported on by committee, but has not yet come to a vote in the House. The Senate version of the act has not made it to committee yet and no action has been taken on it since its introduction.
Despite the good these oversight bills could do for agricultural and general American interests, their passage is considered unlikely by government tracking organization Civic Impulse, which operates GovTrack.us. Citing a number of reasons, features of the bills, and past trends, all of the three bills have been given very low passage probability prognoses, in some cases as low as 1 percent.
All three bills are supported by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. If you find yourself particularly energized by one or other of them—or any proposed legislation, one way or the other—calling or writing your representative or senator as applicable may help spur action.
Summaries, full texts, and additional information on these bills and others can be found at the Library of Congress’ website at Thomas.loc.gov. —