Trump, the Executive Order on “Enforcing the regulatory reform agenda”

Credits photo: Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

With the Executive Order (E.O.) on “Enforcing the regulatory reform agenda”, issued on February 24, President Trump takes another step forward to carry out his review of the Federal regulatory system. As for E.O. 13771 on “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs” of January 30, 2017, the final aim of this new E.O. is to reduce the burden of regulation, as clearly stated in Sec. 1.

In order to interpret the political context in which the E.O. is enacted, it is useful to remember that when signing the order Trump said that excessive regulation is killing jobs and that “Every regulation should have to pass a simple test: Does it make life better or safer for American workers or consumers? If the answer is no, we will be getting rid of it”. His view about the role of regulation has been further clarified during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, when he said “I want all of the regulations that we need (…) But we don’t need 75 percent of the repetitive, horrible regulations that hurt companies, hurt jobs, make us noncompetitive overseas with other companies from other countries”.

In this context, E.O. on “Enforcing the regulatory reform agenda” introduces innovations mainly on the organization and governance of the regulatory policy.

First of all, the head of each agency shall designate an agency official as its Regulatory Reform Officer (RRO) in charge of overseeing the implementation of regulatory reform initiatives. The latter include not only E.O. 13771, but also E.O. 12866 on “Regulatory Planning and Review” (that represents the main pillar of the US impact assessment system, including cost-benefit analysis of regulatory proposals) and the retrospective review activities provided for by section 6 of Executive Order 13563 on “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review”.

Secondly, Regulatory Reform Task Forces (RRTFs) – chaired by RROs – will be created in each agency. Among their members are also included the Regulatory Policy Officers (RPO) designated under section E.O. 12866, raising some doubts about the concrete compatibility and differences between RRO and RPO. RRTFs main task will be to evaluate existing regulations, identifying those rules that have negative effects on jobs and that are “outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective; impose costs that exceed benefits; create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies”. Task forces will also be devoted to identify regulations that “rely in whole or in part on data, information, or methods that are not publicly available or that are insufficiently transparent to meet the standard for reproducibility”, as well as that “derive from or implement Executive Orders or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified”, an instruction probably aimed at reducing the impact of E.O. issued by President Obama and modified or withdrawn by President Trump. In performing their tasks RRTFs shall seek input from stakeholders significantly affected by Federal regulations.

Considering RRTFs role and activities, it is clear that they will become a crucial tool for implementing EO 13771. In his first speech to Congress, President Trump illustrated how he interprets RRTS function, defining them “deregulation task force inside of every government agency”.

In order to ensure agencies accountability towards the main goals of the E.O., agencies are also required to incorporate in their annual performance plans indicators to measure progresses related to the implementation of regulatory reform policies; and the identification of regulations for repeal, replacement, or modification.

The battle against excessive regulation continues. And probably this is not the last executive order President Trump will issue on this theme.

(Francesco Sarpi)