Abstracts and Reviews
AEI-Brookings assessment of OMB's draft guidance on cost/benefit analysis
One of the major points made by this publication is that agency regulatory analyses should present results in a clear and concise manner that would facilitate interested parties in commenting and improve agency accountability for compliance with OMB guidance. Mr. Hahn notes that agencies usually do not provide their regulatory analysis in an "accessible format"; that there is a need for "better summary information"; that a "structured format for the executive summary could help provide greater transparency", and that the summary should be published in the Federal Register notice.
Congress has also previously taken note of this issue, and has discussed legislation very much in line with Mr. Hahn's recommendations. On June 25, 1998 (105th Cong., 2d Sess.), Rep. Chenoweth introduced H.R. 4162, the "Regulatory Information Presentation Act of 1998". The legislation would have directed the Office of the Federal Register to develop a uniform format which agencies would use to present, in a consistent and informative manner, the analytical information supporting a proposed and final rulemaking action determined to be "significant" or "major". The bill specified the topics that should be covered in the format. Those topics are ones that track closely the analytical requirements of Executive Order 12866, including need, scope of legal authority, alternative considered, rationale for alternative selected, costs, impacts, benefits, and significant issues raised in public comments.
The bill was introduced for the purpose of comment and to present the issues for debate; it was not actively sponsored for enactment at that time and expired at the end of the 105th Congress. In remarks after introduction, Rep. Chenoweth also noted that the bill was consistent with a recent GAO report and recommendations to make agency regulatory analyses more transparent.
In light of the AEI-Brookings recommendations, it appears that it would be useful and timely to revisit H.R. 4162. A copy of the bill and the legislative remarks are posted on this site.
(Robert W. Hahn, "An Assessment of OMB's Draft Guidelines to Help Agencies Estimate the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulation", AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, Regulatory Analysis 99-5, Dec. 1999, www.aei.brookings.org.)