By Senator Angus S. King, Jr.
Today's regulatory regime is stymieing American economic growth. In my travels across Maine, I've had people tell me about their difficulties in complying with excessive and unnecessary regulations. These are stories of hardworking and bright individuals setting out to succeed and doing everything in their power to make that happen, but nonetheless are struggling through no fault of their own. Governmental red tape and piles of paperwork are among the biggest obstacles facing our country's business owners and entrepreneurs. Right now, one of the best ways for Congress to take a saner look at regulations would be to enact the Regulatory Improvement Act of 2013, a bipartisan piece of legislation introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and myself.
This legislation is a sensible measure to cut the tape, slash the paperwork, and free our businesses from the burden of unnecessary and redundant compliances. It would establish an independent review board ultimately charged with identifying regulations in need of streamlining or repeal. A report would be submitted to Congress for a straight yes-or-no vote -- a move designed to ensure that Washington acts to sufficiently remove this stress from small-business owners. All of this would be conducted in a bipartisan and impartial manner, guided by the general public.
We need the nation's business owners to help speed along the country's economic recovery. This legislation frees their hand to do just that. Our nation's job creators are bogged down in a swamp of paperwork that is nothing but costly and detrimental to their productivity. While we must be responsible stewards of our environment -- mindful of the fact that our natural resources contribute to a dynamic economy and provide clean air and water for our consumption -- we must also address the harm certain regulations are having on our economy.
According to a recent study by the Progressive Policy Institute, the number of pages of federal regulations has increased by 138 percent since 1975, from 71,224 pages to 163,301 in 2011. The weight of all those regulations is enough to slow any hardworking employer. Now imagine having to sift through those pages in order to be sure your business is compliant. Employees' hours are wasted, and their wages could be better spent on more fruitful exercises. Our bill would help make this possible.
Let me be clear: The intent of this bill is not to engage in a wholesale dismantling of the nation's existing regulatory regime. In particular, I share some of my colleagues' concern that "regulatory reform" can be employed as a euphemism to disguise efforts to completely undo significant legislation -- from the Clean Air Act to the Affordable Care Act. I do not support such efforts. This bill would eliminate problematic regulations and leave be essential rules that protect broad priorities such as the environment, public health and safety.
With the Regulatory Improvement Act of 2013, Congress has a chance to promote the best interests of the American people and free small businesses from detrimental government growth. From my point of view, the current regulatory structure has become akin to a fourth, unchecked branch of government. Congress must find ways to reverse this disturbing trend and reestablish an appropriate role of congressional oversight. I'm proud to support this bipartisan solution with Sen. Blunt, and look forward to building a consensus on this issue that incorporates views from both sides of the aisle. Only by working together will Congress be able to tackle this obstacle to economic prosperity and move forward to put America back on track.