Congress Passes Thompson Legislation Promoting Public’s Right to Know Costs and Benefits of Regulation

Washington, D.C. — Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R-TN) announced that the FY 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, passed by the House yesterday and the Senate today, includes language Thompson introduced that will require the government to disclose the benefits and the costs of federal regulatory programs to the American people.

“It’s time that we acknowledge the public’s right to know the benefits and costs of government regulations,” Thompson said. “That’s why I sponsored this regulatory accounting legislation. It will shed light on the benefits and burdens of federal regulations, and it will hold federal regulators more accountable to make smart, cost-effective decisions that get real results.”

The federal government has largely ignored the “off-budget” costs of government — the economic burdens that federal regulations place on families, businesses, and state and local governments.

Thompson said he was pleased that Majority Leader Trent Lott, along with Senators John Breaux (D-LA), Charles Robb (D-VA) and Richard Shelby (R-AL), cosponsored an early version of the language, which passed the Senate unanimously in July as an amendment to the Treasury-Postal Appropriations Bill, S.2312.

“We represent diverse political viewpoints, but we all agree that we need to improve our regulatory system and make it more open and accountable,” Thompson said. “I’m pleased that both Republicans and Democrats can come together to make our government more efficient and effective.”

The Thompson Amendment builds on and strengthens the regulatory accounting provision passed by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) in 1996. The Thompson language requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to provide Congress with an accounting statement of the total annual benefits and costs of federal regulatory programs in February 2000, along with a summary of public comments and suggestions for doing things better. It also requires the OMB to analyze the impacts of federal rules on state and local government, as well as small business. The amendment also requires OMB guidelines to the agencies and independent peer review of the report to improve the quality of these reports.

“This legislation will help hold federal regulators accountable and reduce needless waste and red tape,” Thompson said. “It will improve efforts to protect public health, safety and the environment, and to promote the economic security and well-being of our families and communities.”

The cost of federal regulatory programs is estimated at $700 billion a year. The goal of this legislation is to help assess and improve the performance of those programs.

Attached are Thompson’s October 9 floor remarks.