Ad­min­is­tra­tion dereg­u­la­tion push gath­ers steam,

Rules were aimed at Wall Street, gun sell­ers, min­ers, more.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Eric Lip­ton and Binyamin Ap­pel­baum ©2017 The New York Times

Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions WASH­ING­TON — giants like Ver­i­zon and AT&T will not have to take “rea­son­able mea­sures” to en­sure that their cus­tomers’ So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers, web brows­ing his­tory and other per­sonal in­for­ma­tion are not stolen or ac­ci­den­tally re­leased.

Wall Street banks like Gold­man Sachs and JP­Mor­gan Chase will not be pun­ished, at least for now, for not col­lect­ing ex­tra money from cus­tomers to cover po­ten­tial losses from cer­tain kinds of high-risk trades that helped un­leash the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

And So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion data will no longer be used to try to block in­di­vid­u­als with dis­abling men­tal health is­sues from buy­ing hand­guns, nor will hunters be banned from us­ing lead-based bul­lets, which can ac­ci­den­tally poi­son wildlife, on 150 mil­lion acres of fed­eral lands.

Th­ese are just a few of the more than 90 reg­u­la­tions that fed­eral agen­cies and the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Congress have de­layed, sus­pended or re­versed in the month and a half since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump took of­fice, ac­cord­ing to a tally by The New York Times.

The emerg­ing ef­fort — dozens of ad­di­tional rules could be elim­i­nated in the com­ing weeks — rep­re­sents one of the most sig­nif­i­cant shifts in reg­u­la­tory pol­icy in re­cent decades. It is the lead­ing edge of what Stephen Ban­non, Trump’s chief strate­gist, de­scribed late last month as “the de­con­struc­tion of the ad­min­is­tra­tive state.”

In many cases, records show that the changes came af­ter ap­peals by cor­po­rate lob­by­ists and trade as­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tives, who see a po­ten­tially his­toric op­por­tu­nity to lower com­pli­ance costs and drive up prof­its. Slash­ing reg­u­la­tions, they ar­gue, will un­leash eco­nomic growth.

On a near daily ba­sis, reg­u­lated in­dus­tries are send­ing in spe­cific re­quests to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion for more roll­backs, in­clud­ing re­cent ap­peals from 17 au­tomak­ers to re­scind an agree­ment to in­crease mileage stan­dards for their fleets, and an­other from phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try fig­ures to re­verse a new rule that tight­ens scru­tiny over the mar­ket­ing of pre­scrip­tion drugs for un­ap­proved uses. As of late Fri­day, word had leaked that the au­tomak­ers’ re­quest for a roll­back was about to be granted, too.

“Af­ter a re­lent­less, eightyear reg­u­la­tory on­slaught that loaded un­prece­dented bur­dens on busi­nesses and the econ­omy, re­lief is fi­nally on the way,” Thomas J. Dono­hue, pres­i­dent of the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, wrote in a memo last week.

But dozens of pub­lic in­ter­est groups — en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, la­bor unions, con­sumer watch­dogs — have sounded the alarm about the po­ten­tial threat to Amer­i­cans’ well-be­ing. “Amer­i­cans did not vote to be ex­posed to more health, safety, en­vi­ron­men­tal and fi­nan­cial dan­gers,” said one let­ter, signed by lead­ers of 137 non­profit groups, that was sent to the White House last week.

In other cases, the Oba­maera rules un­der at­tack have drawn ob­jec­tions even from some lib­eral groups that called them ex­am­ples of over­reach, like the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union’s protest of a sys­tem to block men­tally ill peo­ple from buy­ing guns.

The reg­u­la­tory re­trench­ment is un­fold­ing on mul­ti­ple fronts.

Congress, with Trump’s ap­proval, has erased three Obama-era rules in the last month, lift­ing reg­u­la­tions re­lated to coal min­ing and oil and gas ex­plo­ration, as well as the sale of guns to the men­tally ill. More than 25 ad­di­tional rules could also be erased in the com­ing weeks, with the House hav­ing voted to elim­i­nate nearly half of them.

Trump has separately signed ex­ec­u­tive or­ders di­rect­ing agen­cies to pur­sue the re­ver­sal of other rules, in­clud­ing a re­quire­ment that fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers act in the in­ter­est of their clients, and a rule aimed at pro­tect­ing drink­ing wa­ter from pol­lu­tion.

New White House ap­pointees at agen­cies in­clud­ing the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion, the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion, the In­te­rior Depart­ment and the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency have also per­son­ally in­ter­vened in re­cent weeks to block, de­lay or start the process to nul­lify other rules, such as a re­quire­ment that cor­po­ra­tions pub­lish tal­lies com­par­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive pay with av­er­age em­ployee wages.

Pres­i­dents wield con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence over the rule-mak­ing process. They set the agenda and ap­point the rule-mak­ers, and, since the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion, a White House of­fice has re­viewed ev­ery ma­jor reg­u­la­tion to try to en­sure that ben­e­fits to so­ci­ety ex­ceeded com­pli­ance costs. It is not un­com­mon for new pres­i­dents to make quick changes in reg­u­la­tory pol­icy or try to re­verse cer­tain last-minute rules their pre­de­ces­sors en­acted.

Barack Obama, shortly af­ter be­ing elected pres­i­dent, pressed the EPA to let the state of Cal­i­for­nia set more strin­gent lim­its on auto emis­sions, a pro­posal that the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion had re­jected.

But the courts have gen­er­ally held that new ad­min­is­tra­tions need to jus­tify such re­ver­sals. The best-known case in­volved the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion, which tried to re­scind a rule re­quir­ing air bags in pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles. The courts found the move un­jus­ti­fied.

“It is not a rel­e­vant or ad­e­quate de­fense to say that the pres­i­dent told us to do it,” said Michael Eric Herz, a pro­fes­sor at the Ben­jamin N. Car­dozo School of Law in New York.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion could face sim­i­lar chal­lenges — the new re­quire­ment that agen­cies must find two reg­u­la­tions to elim­i­nate be­fore en­act­ing any new rules is be­ing chal­lenged in fed­eral court by two lib­eral groups.

In ad­di­tion, Demo­cratic at­tor­neys gen­eral from New York, Hawaii, Mas­sachusetts, Ore­gon and Ver­mont have threat­ened in re­cent days to sue the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to try to block some of the reg­u­la­tory roll­backs.

This shift in fed­eral reg­u­la­tory pol­icy is hav­ing im­pli­ca­tions for tens of thou­sands of cit­i­zens na­tion­wide.

Nearly two years ago, the So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion first moved to set up a new sys­tem that would au­to­mat­i­cally turn over to the Jus­tice Depart­ment in­for­ma­tion it col­lects on Amer­i­cans who are re­ceiv­ing fed­eral ben­e­fits based on a dis­abling men­tal ill­ness for in­clu­sion in a data­base used for gun back­ground checks.

This would ef­fec­tively pre­vent th­ese in­di­vid­u­als — an es­ti­mated 75,000 per year — from buy­ing guns un­less they sought a Jus­tice Depart­ment waiver af­ter be­ing re­jected, given the long-stand­ing fed­eral lim­i­ta­tion on the sale of firearms to in­di­vid­u­als with known men­tal ill­nesses.

Groups like the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, the ACLU and the Na­tional Al­liance on Men­tal Ill­ness ob­jected to the pro­vi­sion, which had been sched­uled to go into ef­fect in Jan­uary. They ar­gued that it un­fairly pre­sumed a ten­dency to­ward vi­o­lence by a wide range of peo­ple with men­tal dis­abil­i­ties, in­clud­ing con­di­tions like bu­limia and ob­ses­sive com­pul­sive dis­or­der.

Trump signed leg­is­la­tion Tues­day re­vok­ing that rule un­der the Con­gres­sional Re­view Act, which gives Congress a lim­ited win­dow to over­turn the de­ci­sions of reg­u­la­tory agen­cies.

A to­tal of 46 such Con­gres­sional Re­view Act res­o­lu­tions are pend­ing in Congress, on top­ics in­clud­ing air pol­lu­tion, un­em­ploy­ment com­pen­sa­tion, endangered species list­ings, debit card fees and oil and gas drilling on fed­eral lands as well as the Arc­tic Outer Con­ti­nen­tal Shelf.

The act, first adopted in 1996, had been used only once be­fore to nul­lify a reg­u­la­tion, at the start of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2001, when a Clin­ton-era rule was re­voked.

Rules not sub­ject to con­gres­sional re­view may still be at risk. The most rad­i­cal shift has per­haps come at the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion, which voted Wed­nes­day to halt new gov­ern­ment rules re­lated to data se­cu­rity from tak­ing ef­fect this week, af­ter ob­jec­tions were raised by com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Com­cast, Ver­i­zon and AT&T.

Ajit Pai, a Repub­li­can whom Trump re­cently named FCC chairman, has also made clear that he in­tends to push to roll back or aban­don sev­eral other ma­jor rules, in­clud­ing the land­mark net neu­tral­ity reg­u­la­tion in­tended to en­sure equal ac­cess to con­tent on the in­ter­net, as well as ef­forts to keep prison phone rates down and a pro­posal to break open the ca­ble box mar­ket.

The ef­forts have been praised by telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions giants, like Com­cast, but con­demned by con­sumer ad­vo­cates.


Peo­ple check out weapons at an NRA con­ven­tion last year. The NRA and the ACLU were among the groups that ob­jected to us­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion data to pre­vent gun sales to peo­ple with dis­abling men­tal ill­ness.

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