July | August 2017







CSG Testifies at House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Hearing

By Jeff Stockdale, director of legislative affairs, CSG Washington, D.C., Office
On April 26, the House Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs held a hearing to examine the burdens of unfunded mandates on state and local governments. Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser testified on behalf of The Council of State Governments.
In December, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, sent a letter to governors, state legislators, and county and local government officials across the country soliciting feedback on the federal mandates causing the greatest strain. In response to the committee’s request, CSG provided a letter containing specific examples, which included the U.S. Department of Labor’s Overtime Rule, the Department of Justice Accessibility of Web Information Services proposed rule, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Rules. These unfunded mandates impose a major cost burden on, and obstacle to, the budgets of state and local governments.
This hearing was a continuation of the committee’s oversight of the issue, and sought to hear directly from state and local officials about how unfunded mandates affect their communities. In his testimony, Niederhauser provided examples of burdensome federal mandates affecting his home state of Utah, and urged the committee to find areas to improve coordination and communication with state and local leaders during the policymaking process.
“Goals behind federal mandates are often admirable, but we have our own local goals, which are just as admirable, more important to local citizens, more likely to be effective and less expensive,” Niederhauser said.
A common theme heard from the witnesses who testified at the hearing was the need to update the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, or UMRA, of 1995. The UMRA was signed into law after state and local governments joined together to ask Congress for a new approach to reduce, and potentially eliminate, the growing trend of unfunded federal mandates.
While the UMRA has seen success in reducing the number of unfunded mandates in legislation, its limited scope has continued to allow agencies to write new rules with little input from those affected.  The cost-benefit analyses required for proposed and final rules with federal mandates also does not truly capture all costs, such as accounting costs and other costs associated with the full expense of regulatory compliance.
During the hearing, Niederhauser applauded committee member Rep. Virginia Foxx for, “reintroducing H.R. 50, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act, which addresses the UMRA’s narrow coverage, exemptions and loopholes, and will ultimately make it a more effective instrument to reduce unfunded legislative and regulatory mandates.”
H.R. 50 has previously passed the House on three separate occasions, but the legislation has never received consideration by the full Senate. CSG, along with other state and local organizations, sent a joint letter last Congress to the bill’s House and Senate sponsors applauding their efforts to enact the legislation.
“Americans are better served when regulators are required to measure and consider the costs of the rules they create. The Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act is simply about making government work better for the American people by requiring openness and honesty from Washington,” said Foxx. “Transparency and accountability are not partisan issues.”
CSG’s Statement of Principles on Federalism outlines the organization’s desire to limit unnecessary federal intrusions into areas of state responsibility and to foster effective cooperation with the federal government in areas of shared jurisdiction. These principles guide CSG’s efforts as they identify common-sense regulatory reforms that capitalize on state experience and expertise while balancing health and human safety with economic growth.