Each year, Washington imposes thousands of pages of rules and regulations on America’s commerce, our respective states, and local governments. Buried in those pages are costly, unfunded federal mandates that make it harder for businesses to hire and cash-strapped states, counties, and cities to serve their citizens. What’s more, under current law, the federal government can skirt public scrutiny in the rulemaking process, making it difficult for state and local leaders to plan and propose alternatives with input from the private sector.
As a North Carolinian Republican member of Congress and a South Carolinian Democratic mayor who is also serving as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, our priorities don’t often overlap. However, we are united in our belief that regulators and legislators should know exactly what they are asking the American people to pay—and not just the top-line dollar estimate. Regulatory analyses should determine whether mandates would make it harder for state and local governments to meet their top priorities and for businesses to stay afloat.
This Friday, the House will have the chance to require regulators to analyze the real-world costs of their mandates with H.R. 50, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (UMITA) introduced by Rep. Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxSixth House GOP lawmaker issued K metal detector fine Republicans unveil bill to ban federal funding of critical race theory Biden extends pause on student loan payments to 2022 MORE. This is the sixth Congress that Rep. Foxx has introduced the bill, which has the full endorsement of the U.S. Conference of Mayors along with a strong coalition of organizations that represent state and local officials.
UMITA builds upon the bipartisan 1995 Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA). UMRA was designed to limit the imposition of unfunded federal mandates on state, local, and tribal governments by requiring the Congressional Budget Office and regulatory agencies to provide a direct cost analysis of legislation and certain regulations, respectively. However, over two decades since UMRA’s passage, its weaknesses have been exposed and exploited.
UMITA eliminates paths regulators take to skirt the transparency necessary for public scrutiny in the first place. It also requires consideration of mandates’ indirect costs to the private sector, such as the cost in jobs, and guarantees the public the opportunity to weigh in on regulations after the cost analyses are made known. Furthermore, the bill increases agency accountability by extending judicial review to include an agency’s selection of the least costly, least burdensome alternative to a regulatory mandate.
When the federal government adds to an employer’s or local government’s regulatory workload, it should be upfront and honest about the direct and indirect costs of new requirements. The combined restoration of UMRA’s original intent and expansion of its scope to account for real-world costs will provide a more fair and transparent regulatory environment.
The taxpayers, businesses and governments being asked to pay the bill also deserve the chance to weigh in during the rulemaking process. By increasing local participation in the regulatory process, UMITA promises potential for returning greater control of spending to state and local governments. To restore transparency to the rulemaking process and preserve the entrepreneurial spirit that distinguishes America, representatives and senators in Congress should support H.R. 50.
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx represents North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District and is the chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Steve Benjamin is the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.