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The REINS Act: Strengthening Regulatory Accountability For America’s Students and Workers

This week the House of Representatives is expected to consider H.R. 367, the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. Sponsored by Rep. Todd Young (R-IN), the legislation would require federal agencies to submit major regulations (those with an annual economic effect of more than $100 million) to Congress for approval. H.R. 367 will help control regulatory costs and promote a more accountable federal government.

The REINS Act is advancing at a critical time for the country. Nearly 12 million Americans are searching for work and the cost of the current regulatory burden is a staggering $1.8 trillion. The size of this burden is growing at an alarming rate with nearly $50 billion in new rules proposed this year alone. Efforts to hold back the flood of regulations are being stymied by the Obama administration. Adding insult to injury, the administration routinely ignores its legal obligation to provide timely transparency of the regulatory process.

Greater scrutiny of federal regulations is urgently needed. The busy bureaucracy is crafting new rules right now that would significantly affect the lives of students and workers by:

  • Creating confusion and uncertainty in retirement planning – Fiduciaries are obligated to provide the highest level of care to those participating in a retirement plan. For more than 35 years, rules surrounding fiduciary responsibility have provided certainty and clarity. However, in 2010 the Department of Labor began a sweeping effort to redefine the long-standing rules of the road. While it may be appropriate to update this important policy, witnesses described at an oversight hearing how the proposed changes would have limited access to financial education, and drive up costs for workers and retirees. Although bipartisan opposition ultimately forced the department to withdraw its original proposal, the administration is still working behind closed doors to redefine fiduciary and alter how millions of workers plan for their retirement. 
  • Piling onerous rules on institutions of higher learning – More than three million students attend proprietary schools. Also known as career colleges, proprietary schools offer flexible course schedules and innovative programs that help meet the needs of local communities. In the fall of 2010 the Department of Education put forward a proposal that would impose unprecedented requirements on these schools and demand preapproval by federal bureaucrats before a school can offer a new program. On numerous occasions Congress has expressed bipartisan disapproval of this misguided regulatory scheme, including a bill adopted last week by the Education and the Workforce Committee. Yet the administration is pressing on, determined to undermine student choice and deny access to vital skills and training. 
  • Imposing higher costs on companion care providers – Since 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act has served as the foundation of federal wage and hour standards. Congress created an exemption in the act for workers that provide in-home care for seniors and individuals with disabilities. This exemption has helped vulnerable Americans receive affordable care from the comfort on their own homes. Despite serving the nation well for nearly 40 years, this commonsense exemption is under assault by the Obama administration. At a hearing in the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, witnesses discussed how the administration’s pending rule will limit access to affordable in-home companion care and result in more individuals entering institutional living.

The American Action Forum estimates the REINS Act could save $50 billion in regulatory costs. Just as important, it will inject much needed accountability into the regulatory process. America’s students and workers deserve no less.

To learn more about the REINS Act, click here.

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