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September 27, 2005
House Would Tie Hands of Health Regulators
[The following appeal was received from the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow.- Ed.]

An Appeal for Action

Please call your Senator today to stop cost/benefit analysis requirements on environmental and public health agencies.

The House is working on an “economic stimulus bill” that includes language requiring all agencies to do additional cost/benefit analyses before promulgating new or updated rules or regulations. This means that already financially and resource strapped agencies will have to put more resources into paperwork and less into actual public health protection. It will also give the administration another chance to delay implementing laws they don’t like. To make sure the Senate does not include this language in its own economic stimulus bill, Senator Pamela Resor is asking Senators to sign-on to a letter to oppose these provisions:

Please call your State Senator Now at 617-722-1455!

Tell him or her: “I am a constituent of the Senator. I would like you to sign on to Senator Resor’s letter urging the Senate to strike any cost/benefit language from the Senate economic stimulus bill.”

The deadline for Senators to sign on is this Thursday (9/29) so call right away!

How to find your legislators:
Don’t know who they are? Visit www.wheredoivotema.com
Want their direct phone numbers?
Senate numbers and emails are listed at http://www.state.ma.us/legis/memmenus.htm

——————
Background

Massachusetts has some of the nation’s strongest environmental health and safety protections. Many groups are working to make them even stronger and more effective. But these protections are at risk, thanks to the economic stimulus bill filed in the House.

The regulatory impact statement requirements of House Bill 4324, sections 16 through 20 of the House’s economic stimulus bill, would discourage state agencies from issuing needed health, safety, and environmental rules by requiring that state agencies prepare a detailed “regulatory impact statement” every time they propose a new regulation. Agencies must then file the regulatory impact statement with the Secretary of Economic Development who would have veto power over the statement’s method and could hold up regulations indefinitely.

This cost-benefit requirement will weaken protection of the environment and public health. The new requirements under this proposal will increase the degree of effort required to implement important laws passed by the legislature. The real impact of this will be that important laws passed by the legislature will take longer to implement, and changes updating existing regulations will be less likely – in both cases halting regulations that protect the public from unnecessary health risks and environmental harm. By providing the Secretary of Economic Development indirect veto power over regulations – the Secretary could essentially return regulations to the agency indefinitely under the guise of improper methodology – important health and environmental regulations could be permanently held up for political reasons.

This cost-benefit provision is anti-democratic. The bill is intended to rein in agencies that their critics say are too responsive to public opinion. Elected legislators should be very skeptical of arguments that government is too responsive to public will. The regulatory process is already open to any cost-benefit analyses or risk assessment any stakeholder wishes to offer beyond the agencies’ own charge to look at all factors in developing new regulation. This provision provides the administration power over which laws passed by the legislature are enacted and enforced by providing the Secretary of Economic Development the power to halt regulations.

This cost-benefit provision will increase bureaucracy. In this time of “downsizing” government, in terms of both staff and operating funds, how will the new requirements under this amendment be carried out? Economists and lawyers must be hired to carry out additional cost-benefit analyses. The regulatory review process will be protracted as advocates on both sides argue over the methods and assumptions of analyses carried out under the amendment’s requirements. By requiring that the regulatory impact statement be approved first by the Secretary of Economic Development, the legislature is creating a tremendous bottleneck for regulatory approval and putting considerable strain on the resources and staff of the Executive Office of Economic Development as well.

The legislature is handing its authority to the administration. The General Court’s purpose is to create laws that protect the citizens of the commonwealth. The responsibility of agencies is to promulgate regulations to enact the legislation passed by the legislature. By requiring that the Secretary of Economic Development approve all regulatory impact statements for new regulations, the legislature is providing an administration appointee power to hold on to regulatory impact statements indefinitely or to continually send them back to the agency for changes. Sections 16 through 20 would give the administration a second bite at the apple by allowing it to essentially veto laws by not allowing an agency to implement them.

This cost-benefit provision takes aim at a problem that does not exist. There is no evidence that current agency regulatory practices are wasteful or are making irrational choices about what to regulate or issuing rules in less than a careful, open manner. Our state officials have real problems they should be addressing rather than imposing more red tape requirements for needed environmental, health, and safety rules.

Please contact Megan Amundson at the Environmental League of Massachusetts with any questions at 617-742-2553 or [email protected]

– Elizabeth D. Saunders
Healthy Tomorrow Network Coordinator
Clean Water Action & Clean Water Fund
[email protected], [email protected]
phone: (617) 338-8131 Ext. 203
fax: (617) 338-6449
262 Washington St. 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02108

  

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