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S. 951 (115th): Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Apr 26, 2017.

Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017

This bill codifies and revises notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures to require federal agencies to consider: (1) whether a rulemaking is required by statute or is within the discretion of the agency, (2) whether existing federal laws or rules could be amended or rescinded to address the problem, and (3) reasonable alternatives for a new rule.

For major or high-impact rules, an agency must:

publish a notice of initiation of rulemaking to invite interested parties to propose alternatives and ideas that accomplish the agency's objectives and benefit the public; allow persons interested in high-impact or certain major rules to petition for a public hearing with oral presentation, cross-examination, and the burden of proof on the proponent of the rule; adopt the most cost-effective rule among reasonable alternatives that meet statutory objectives, unless additional benefits justify additional costs; and publish a framework and metrics for measuring the effectiveness of the rule on an ongoing basis. The bill defines:

a "high-impact rule" as a rule likely to cause an annual effect on the economy of $1 billion or more; and a "major rule" as a rule likely to cause an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more, a major increase in costs or prices, or significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, public health and safety, or the ability of U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises. Agencies proposing a rule must notify the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and publish a notice of proposed rulemaking that includes: (1) a text of the proposed rule; (2) rulemaking considerations; and (3) for any major rule or high-impact rule, a discussion of alternatives and a preliminary explanation of how the rules meets statutory objectives and how benefits justify costs. When adopting a rule, an agency must publish a notice of final rulemaking that explains its determinations and responds to comments.

To obtain public comment on whether rules adopted at the end of a presidential administration should be amended or rescinded, agencies may delay rules that have not yet become effective before the inauguration of a new President.

OIRA must establish rulemaking guidelines for: (1) assessing costs and benefits, economic issues, and risk assessments; and (2) avoiding inconsistency or duplication with other agency rules.

The bill revises the scope of judicial review to: (1) establish a substantial evidence standard for high-impact rules, (2) allow courts to remand a matter to an agency without setting aside the agency's action, and (3) prohibit review of a determination of whether a rule is a major rule based on an increase in costs or adverse effects.

Agencies issuing guidance are: (1) prohibited from foreclosing consideration of issues, (2) required to state that guidance is not legally binding, and (3) required to confer with OIRA on major guidance.