Government agencies in 2017 published the fewest pages of new regulations in the Federal Register since Bill Clinton was in the White House, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
A total of 1,579 regulations issued by Barack Obama and heading toward full implementation were either delayed or canceled by President Donald Trump, representing a 35 percent reduction in his predecessor’s previous record annual total.
Even so, Wayne Crews, CEI’s regulatory expert and author of “10,000 Commandments,” the think tank’s annual compilation of federal regulatory activity and costs, was somewhat restrained in his assessment of the Trump record.
“The present value savings from these rule rollbacks is said to be $8 billion, or around $600 million on an annual basis,” Crews said in a statement. “That’s important, remarkable, maybe even unprecedented, and even a little astounding, but not a gigantic dent in a regulatory state costing hundreds of billions of dollars annually.”
Federal departments and agencies are required to publish proposed new regulations in the Federal Register, so experts like Crews use the total number of pages published in it each year as a handy measure of the growth or decline of government bureaucracy.
Officials during the Obama administration set a single-year record with 95,894 pages published in 2016. The calendar year for 2017 concluded on Friday — the last federal workday of the year — with only 61,950 pages.
The Federal Register provides government officials with an opportunity to explain to taxpayers the purpose of new regulations — a place to explain how the rules are to be complied with and to respond to comments from individuals and groups.
President Trump cut the significant category of new rules to 198, compared to Obama’s 479.
A total of 479 of the new rules issued under Obama were classified as “significant,” with estimated implementation costs of at least $100 million. Trump cut the significant category of new rules to 198.
“When all is said and done, the pro-regulatory nature of the regulatory state cannot be said to have fundamentally changed; agencies like FCC, EPA and CFBP have done insincere about-faces with the arrival of Trump; such phenomena are transitory,” Crews said.
Crews pointed to an obscure procedural change implemented by the Trump administration: The change requires federal officials to identify proposed new regulations as either “net-regulatory or deregulatory.”
Crews is so enthusiastic about the new approach to classifying proposed regulations that he said, “If this becomes incorporated into the Federal Register presentation and elsewhere in all forms of agency disclosure, this change could make a huge difference; it may be even more important than the particular cuts completed so far, because even hostile agencies of the future would be hard-pressed to stop reporting such distinctions. And their never implementing regulatory relief would become obvious over time.”
For the next phase of Trump’s anti-regulation campaign, Crews recommended that the president issue an executive order limiting how widely agency officials can use “regulatory guidance” to circumvent the rule-making process, which can often go on for months and even years.
“When agencies are discouraged from issuing rules, they may rely increasingly heavily on such ‘sub-regulatory’ guidance and thwart the spirit of reform,” Crews said. “It is within the power of the president to disclose, eliminate, better classify, and streamline guidance; and to hold accountable those issuing it.”