NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Does Increased Legislative Oversight Result in "Better" Regulations?

April 4, 2011

Over the past two decades, the regulatory process in New Jersey has become increasingly complex.  State agencies are now required to conduct numerous analyses of their regulations, in the name of greater accountability and transparency.  Legislative oversight has been strengthened.  Have these procedural changes resulted in "better" regulations?  Or have they made the regulatory process so cumbersome that agencies have turned to alternative forms of policymaking, ask Stuart Shapiro and Deborah Borie-Holtz of Rutgers University.

Shapiro and Borie-Holtz examined 1,707 regulations in New Jersey from the time periods of 1998-1999 and 2006-2007:

  • They found that agencies are largely immune to the procedural requirements of the regulatory process in New Jersey; substantive changes to agency proposals as a result of comments are rare; and impact analyses are pro forma at best.
  • Legislative review has not been used by the New Jersey state legislature to invalidate an executive branch regulation since 1996.
  • The volume of rulemaking is largely unchanged over the past decade despite changes in administration and the addition of procedural requirements.

The data on the New Jersey rulemaking process reinforce the theme of consistency through procedural and political changes.  For administrative law scholars, the limited effect of regulatory procedures may be of even greater interest.  Most notable are the limited circumstances in which agencies change their proposals as a result of public comments.  Regulatory reformers at the state and federal levels should take note: procedural control of bureaucratic agencies is unlikely to be particularly effective, if the New Jersey example is representative.  Indeed, political control of agencies may even be particularly challenging, say Shapiro and Borie-Holtz.

Source: Stuart Shapiro and Deborah Borie-Holtz, "Lessons from New Jersey: What Are the Effects of 'Administrative Procedures' Regulatory Reform?" Regulation Magazine, Spring 2011.

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