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An Obama mandate to trim outmoded rules is one Trump should keep

Randolph J. May December 21, 2016
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Here’s the way I began my commentary, “One Obama Executive Order That Makes Sense,” published on December 19 in the Washington Times:

In July 2011, President Barack Obama actually issued an executive order that, at least on paper, makes good sense. It’s Executive Order 13579, ‘Regulation and Independent Regulatory Agencies,’ urging independent agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission to establish plans for periodic retrospective reviews aimed at eliminating outmoded regulations.

E.O. 13579 followed on the heels of an earlier Obama executive order requiring executive branch agencies to engage in retrospective reviews to eliminate outdated, no longer necessary regulations. In the case of so-called independent agencies, President Obama (supposedly) could not “order” that the agencies undertake retrospective reviews, so E.O. 13579 simply “urges” them to do so.

Here’s the core of Executive Order 13579: “[I]ndependent regulatory agencies should consider how best to promote retrospective analysis of rules that may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them in accordance with what has been learned.” The order goes on to declare that “independent agencies, no less than executive agencies,” should consider whether their regulations promote “economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation."

As I say in my Washington Times commentary: “In retrospect, it’s easy to surmise that President Obama’s executive order urging retrospective review of existing regulations must have been issued with a wink and a nod. Few regulations were eliminated during his tenure while significant new ones continued to pile up at an unprecedented rate.”

Even if E.O. 13579 was never intended to be taken seriously by President Obama or his appointees, the substantive import of the order makes sense. Regulatory agencies certainly do need to take seriously retrospective reviews of existing regulations to determine whether they are outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome. And, of course, they need to repeal or modify those that are so as not to inhibit economic growth and job creation.

Certainly the need for “hard look” retrospective reviews is great at the FCC, where far too many legacy regulations remain on the books, despite marketplace and technological changes that have vastly increased competition and consumer choice. For the past several years, the FCC has operated at if it inhabits a time warp.

For more on the FCC’s particular situation and Executive Order 13579 more generally, please see my Washington Times piece.

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