House will vote to let courts block non-transparent regulations

The House on Friday is expected to pass bipartisan legislation that would allow courts to block the implementation of federal regulations that are not developed in a transparent way that includes public input.

GOP leaders will call up the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act, or UMITA, on Friday. The bill expands upon and improves the 1995 Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA), which required the government to more closely weigh the costs and impacts of federal rule making.

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Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who sponsored the new bill, said Tuesday that her legislation also includes language that would let people seek a court opinion on whether federal agencies follow that requirement.

"If the requirements set forth by UMRA and UMITA are not met, a judicial stay may be placed upon regulations," Foxx said on the House floor. The bill, H.R. 899, says specifically that "a court may compel the agency" to go through a transparent regulatory process.

Foxx said she has spent years writing her bill, and said it's needed to ensure that agencies only impose regulations after running cost-benefit analyses on them. She also said Congress needs to codify the various executive branch improvements to UMRA that have been made, and to ensure all federal agencies are covered.

"Independent regulatory agencies have become far more prevalent in the intervening years, so it's very important to make sure they're bound by the same transparency requirements as other regulatory bodies," she said.

The bill also allows leaders of congressional committees to request studies on the cost of specific regulations, and requires agencies to impose the least costly regulatory alternative available.

Foxx noted that her bill has three Democratic co-sponsors. While some Democrats may oppose the bill later this week, it will only need a simple majority to pass when it comes up Friday.