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The first thing the new Republican-led Congress did was attempt to kill the Office of Congressional Ethics — thankfully the public uproar forced them to withdraw the plan *for now*.
Now Congress is set to put into place a terrible new law called Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act). This bill, which has died in the last 2 Congresses (and for good reason) essentially cripples executive agencies and their ability to create regulations to apply laws passed by Congress.
Currently, executive agencies develop regulations to apply new laws through careful study, research, and discussion with experts and the public — all proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register and the public is given a chance to comment in order to assist policy experts in writing solid regulations.
If REINS passes — and its passed the House twice but died in the Senate each time! — it will require all regulations passed by executive agencies (like the EPA) that have an “annual economic impact of $100 million or more,” which is less than 0.0006 percent of the U.S. economy, must be approved by Congress within “70 session days” or it does not go into effect. Essentially, Congress gets a “pocket veto”, if they do not affirmatively give their blessing within 70 days, the proposed regulation dies. REINS basically guts the system of checks and balances between our 3 branches of government upon which the US government rests.
The Federal government already works very slowly (when it works), but with one swipe of a pen, our government will be permanently crippled. Please, please please contact your members of Congress and let them know this is a BAD idea!!
The incoming House majority plans to schedule a vote on the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act) soon after new members are sworn in next Tuesday. A top priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the leading lobby group for big business, REINS would fundamentally alter the federal government in ways that could hobble federal agencies during periods when the same party controls Congress and the White House — and absolutely cripple those agencies during periods of divided government.
Many federal laws delegate authority to agencies to work out the details of how to achieve relatively broad objectives set by the law itself. The agencies do so by drafting regulations that interpret and elaborate upon these statutes and which have the force of law. REINS, however, effectively strips agencies of much of this authority.
Ok. It just hit me. I just set myself up with the goal of blogging for each of the next 72 days about government information that will court and spark, to steal a line from Joni Mitchell, in order to get people excited about their constitutional structures and the best values of civic information.
What was I thinking?
So, here is what caught my eye today, from the Nov. 9, 2008 “After the Imperial Presidency” article in the NYTimes Sunday Magazine (http://www.nytimes.com/pages/magazine/index.html.) But it wasn’t just this article, there was another that, juxtaposed with the Presidency one — Check Cashers, Redeemed — that struck me there might be some lessons here about government information and neighborhood services.
In a very real sense the constitutional functions work because it requires the president and congress to exhcange trust and information — much like a bank’s liquidity — and either part of the relationship freezes up, or ignores the other — then we have severe information dislocation.
Libraries and other cultural institutions are like local branches in this national information exchange. The technology and social organization of these institutions should work hand in hand to keep the citizens constantly informed of what is happening inside their governing bodies.
Again, the opportunities are out, if we can just risk and grab at the opportunity.
Talk to you on Day 71 — an hope we start getting some two-way traffic going….