WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, held the third in a series of hearings the Committee has held to assess the impacts of federal regulations and whether legislation is needed to improve the process or substance of rulemaking.

“As I’ve said, the issue is not whether to regulate but how to regulate in the most efficient and effective way,” Lieberman said. “We know that regulations have brought us invaluable improvements in health, safety and environmental quality, and are essential to the financial stability of the private sector.  But, especially when our economy is under such duress, the regulatory process must be open, rigorous, and accountable, to avoid regulatory excesses that undercut economic health.  And we must avoid roadblocks that get in the way of an agency’s ability to modernize rules to better protect both the public and the economy.”

Collins said: “I believe regulatory reform requires three elements: first, require agencies to evaluate the costs and benefits of proposed rules, including indirect costs on job creation, productivity, and the economy; second, make sure agencies don’t attempt to go around the rulemaking process by issuing improper ‘guidance’; and third, provide relief to small businesses that face first-time paperwork violations that result in no harm.”

Both Senators said they would begin working together to seek consensus on legislation to make the regulatory process more efficient and effective.

President Obama issued an Executive Order and administrive guidance to strengthen the rulemaking process by ensuring rules are cost effective and impose the least possible burden, particularly for small businesses. The so-called “look back” reports mandated by the Administration – which involve a review of existing rules – are already paving the way for significant cost savings and paperwork reductions.

And newly released figures from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) indicate that for FY 2010, the aggregate benefits of major rules once again greatly exceeded aggregate costs, potentially by tens of billions of dollars.

Nevertheless, the Senators agreed that vigilance in policing the regulatory process was necessary to make sure it does not lead to regulatory excesses that become a drag on economic health.

Witnesses at the hearing were: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Sally Katzen, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Afffairs in the Clinton Administration; Susan Dudley, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Afffairs in the Bush Administration; David Goldston, Director of Government Affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Karen Harned, Executive Director of the Small Business Legal Center at the National Federation of Independent Business.