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Biden administration seeks to ‘modernize’ regulatory reviews


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Washington — President Joe Biden has issued an Executive Order that raises the bar for proposed federal regulations that require reviews by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The April 6 Executive Order changes the threshold for a “significant regulatory action’s” annual effect on the economy. In Executive Order 12866, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, the threshold for a proposed regulation to be deemed a “significant regulatory action” – triggering a required review by OIRA – was $100 million. Biden’s EO increases that amount to $200 million and allows the OIRA administrator to change it based on gross domestic product. 

In addition, Biden’s EO states it aims to increase opportunities for public input on proposed rules, especially from “underserved communities.” It also directs the OIRA administrator – in consultation with other relevant agencies – to consider guidance or tools to “modernize the notice-and-comment process, including through technological changes.”

Changes may include ways to address mass comments, computer-generated comments – including artificial intelligence-generated ones – and falsely attributed comments.

It also requires the disclosure of dates and people involved in all “substantive” meetings related to regulations and the matters discussed in those meetings “to better facilitate transparency and analysis.”

Finally, the EO directs the White House Office of Management and Budget to revise its guidance on regulatory analysis, also known as Circular A-4.

In a press release from Public Citizen, Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the watchdog group, says the changes are “a much-needed and long overdue step in the right direction.”

Gilbert continues: “The critical reforms contained in this executive action will begin the task of making the regulatory process more inclusive and democratic” and “begin to right the ship and balance undue influence and capture of the process by corporate special interests that oppose sensible protections that help the public.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents employers, says it’s “gravely concerned” by the EO.

“The Biden administration’s proposed changes to the regulatory review process will fundamentally undermine the concept of cost-benefit analysis, allowing the administration to hide the true costs of their aggressive regulatory agenda,” the organization says in a press release.

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