NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is All About

June 12, 2002

President Ronald Reagan first established a White House "regulatory czar" in 1981 to check the excesses of federal regulatory bureaucrats. Under President Clinton, the office became more or less moribund. Now, it's back.

George W. Bush appointed John D. Graham to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Graham describes his objective as "smarter regulation": fighting rules with more-thoughtful arguments that go beyond simple questions of cost.

Some recent interventions may help illustrate what that means:

  • When auto makers complained about proposed regulations that would require equipping cars with sensors to monitor each tire's pressure, Graham calculated an alternative tire-pressure-monitoring system favored by industry might actually save more lives than the pricier government approach.
  • When truckers opposed a Department of Transportation proposal that tractor-trailers be retrofitted to prevent explosions during collisions, he found the redesign risked killing more people than it would protect.
  • When the Environmental Protection Agency raised the ire of builders by proposing rules to limit water pollution in residential and commercial developments, OIRA pointed out the restrictions could price new homes out of the reach of low-income families and endanger children by restricting sidewalks and requiring ponds.

Each of the 600 or so major rules issued each year by executive agencies needs clearance from OIRA. In Graham's first 7 months in office OIRA rejected 21 rules, returning them to the issuing agencies. That compares to Bill Clinton's OIRA, which rejected 12 rules in his first term - and none in his last 3 years in office.

Graham has also opened up the rule-making process and solicited public suggestions for rules that should be strengthened or weakened.

Source: Steven Power and Jacob M. Schlesinger, "Bush's Rules Czar Brings Long Knife to New Regulations," Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2002.


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