Policy Report

Take the REINS: How to return law-making authority to elected, accountable legislators

posted on in City & County Government, Economic Growth & Development, Government Reform, Law & Regulation
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  • North Carolina has over 22,500 permanent administrative rules. The rule-making power of executive branch state agencies is delegated by the General Assembly.
  • Rules carry the full force of law but are not passed by a body of elected, accountable legislators. The delegated power should therefore be limited to allow agencies to deal with the nuts and bolts of their areas.
  • State agencies headed by unelected bureaucrats not directly accountable to the people are not, however, the proper vehicles for deciding and dictating major matters of state policy.
  • North Carolina’s rulemaking system is heavily biased in favor of expanding regulations, including major regulations. A 2010 study found that only about one-tenth of one percent of proposed regulations are ultimately blocked.
  • A bill before Congress would address this same problem at the federal level. The Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act would require Congress to approve any proposed rule that would have significant economic impact. A joint resolution approving the rule would have to pass both chambers and be signed by the president for the rule to proceed; if no vote took place within 70 session days, the regulation would not take effect.
  • The idea behind REINS originated from an October 1983 lecture by then federal appellate judge Stephen Breyer, later appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton.
  • The General Assembly should adopt the REINS principles for North Carolina, thereby properly returning major legislative authority to elected, accountable representatives of the people.
  • Current N.C. law uses the deliberative power of the legislature to dissuade blocking new regulations. The REINS approach would use that process to allow deeply impactful regulations to proceed only if they can obtain majority support from elected and accountable representatives of the people.

Spotlight 430 – Take the REINS: How to return law-making authority to elected, accountable legislators by

Jon Sanders is an economist studying state regulations, that spreading kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies and research editor at the John Locke Foundation, Jon gets in the weeds of all kinds of policy… ...

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