Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, I have heard from many Arkansans and businesses, particularly small businesses, which are struggling to meet an increasing regulatory burden. Each year, Federal agencies issue more than 3,000 final rules, many of which have significant economic impact. In Executive Order 13563, President Obama emphasized that our regulatory system should promote ``economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation.'' I agree. We need a 21st-century regulatory system that promotes future prosperity. However, there are some rules where that goal appears to have been ignored and as a result our economy suffers.
Experience suggests that improvements in the regulatory process are necessary to ensure that all agencies pay close attention to the impact their regulatory actions have on jobs and on the economy.
For example, the EPA is currently considering more stringent regulations of dust as part of the national ambient air quality. From county roads to farm fields, dust is an unavoidable reality in rural areas. Imposing strict dust regulations on these communities would hurt family farmers and rural economies across Arkansas and our Nation.
Another example comes from a county judge in Arkansas. He was rightly concerned about a regulation stemming from the Bush administration that would have cost municipalities and counties and States across the country tens of millions of dollars to replace their street signs. The burden of paying for hundreds of thousands of new signs at costs ranging anywhere from $30 to $110 would have fallen to State and local governments, and that means State and local taxpayers. Fortunately, as part of the administration's review of regulations, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has decided that a specific deadline for replacing street signs makes no sense and that local and State transportation agencies are best equipped to determine when they need to replace these signs in the course of their daily work.
In his Executive order, President Obama remarked that the regulatory system ``must identify and use the best, most innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends.'' Last month, Cass Sunstein, the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Cabinet Secretaries were instructed to minimize regulatory costs, avoid imposing excessive regulatory burdens, and prioritize regulatory actions that promote economic growth and job creation. I applaud the administration's new directive.
One difference in what the administration is doing versus what we are doing in the Portman-Pryor legislation is that the President is looking retrospectively. He is doing a review of regulations that are on the books now, which is good. I welcome that. But the Portman-Pryor legislation will be prospective; it will go forward. We will talk about that more as we go.
I think it is time that Congress reviewed several of the laws that form the basis of our Federal regulatory system. We need to find ways to make these laws more fair, reasonable, and effective in meeting the dual challenges of protecting the public while making our economy stronger and more competitive. That is why I have teamed up with Senator Portman on this important legislation.
Done right, I believe regulatory reform can lead to better, cheaper, and faster rulemaking. Specifically, agencies should, one, propose or adopt regulations only when the benefits justify the costs; two, write regulations so that they impose the least burden on society; and three, in choosing among alternative regulatory approaches, select those that strike the right balance between minimizing costs and maximizing benefits.
Portman-Pryor amends the Administrative Procedures Act to place greater emphasis on early engagement between agencies and parties subject to high-impact rules costing $1 billion or more per year and major rules costing $100 million or more. These expensive rules are where our focus should be. In fact, as a historical footnote, the Administrative Procedures Act was written in 1946 and has not really been revised and updated since that time. So now that it is 65 years old, I think it is time to look at it and update it.
Portman-Pryor makes better use of two existing regulatory tools. It requires an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for high-impact and major rules to enable agencies to solicit written data, views, or arguments from interested parties. Second, although the Administrative Procedures Act already allows for formal hearings, agencies rarely use this option. Portman-Pryor requires an agency to conduct a formal rulemaking hearing for high-impact rules and, in some cases, major rules so that data and information can be debated on the record--here again, on the record. We are trying to make this process more transparent.
Portman-Pryor strikes a balance between minimizing costs and maximizing benefits. The bill makes clear that the agencies are encouraged to choose the least costly alternative that would achieve the objectives of the statute authorizing the rule. However, the bill also makes clear that the agency may choose--may choose--a more costly rule so long as it does two things: one, explains why it has done so based on policy concerns addressed by the statute authorizing the rule and, two, shows that the added benefits are greater than the added costs, which is by definition a push toward ``maximizing benefits.''
Today, the length of rulemaking varies widely from a few months to several years. After this reform, times will still vary in about that same amount, but the final rules should be more stable and more credible. A principal goal of Portman-Pryor is that the bill may shorten the rulemaking process because the final rule will be based on more sound, thorough information and that fewer high-impact and major rules will be vacated by courts and sent back to the agency.
Finally, the bill reinforces that agencies must assess both the costs and benefits of their rules. However, the bill requires the Administrator of OIRA to establish guidelines so that costs-benefit analysis can be commensurate with the economic impact of the rule.
Regulatory reform is not an exciting subject, I know, but it is vitally important to our Nation's economic recovery. I look forward to working with Senator Portman on this important legislation. I also look forward to working with other colleagues to try to get them interested and possibly cosponsoring and helping us get this bill through the process.
My final point is that this is a piece of legislation which not only is bipartisan but is bicameral. We have two Members of the U.S. House of Representatives who have announced this legislation with us today: Lamar Smith, who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Collin Peterson, who is the ranking member on the Agriculture Committee in the House. So it is rare when we get bipartisan, bicameral legislation coming in this Congress.
I hope--I sincerely hope--I will have colleagues on both sides of the aisle who will look at this legislation. I hope we will get broad bipartisan support and we will be able to move it through the committees and get it to the floor in a timely fashion.