Regulations Save Lives, Contribute to Job Growth, Groups Tell Lawmakers

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Regulations Save Lives, Contribute to Job Growth, Groups Tell Lawmakers

At Briefing, Food Poisoning Victim and Registered Nurse Explain Why Safeguards Are Critical

WASHINGTON - As some lawmakers in Congress work to tie the hands of federal agencies that safeguard the environment, food, the financial system, consumer products and more, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards today explained the importance of the regulatory process in protecting the American people and the economy.

 Advocates for regulation, including a victim of E. coli poisoning and a registered nurse, held a briefing for staffers of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. They presented information about the benefits of regulations and the costs of the government’s failure to institute safeguards. They noted that:

• Contrary to claims made by those representing corporate interests, federal agencies are not running amok or making rules without consulting those affected. In fact, those who stand to be affected by a new rule – particularly business interests – are given ample opportunity to influence the final rule. Those many opportunities actually slow down the process, so some rules take many years to come to fruition.

“The regulatory system is very deliberate,” said Rena Steinzor, president of the Center for Progressive Reform. “Everyone who may be affected is invited to have input, often more than once. Federal agencies take this feedback very seriously when finalizing rules.”

• Regulations, especially those in the financial arena, can contribute to job growth. Studies show that overall, the effect of rules on industries suggest a neutral or moderately positive effect on employment levels. Further, employers attribute only a tiny fraction of layoffs to government regulations. By comparison, the weather causes more extended layoffs.

“Jobs are at the top of everyone’s minds, particularly Congress,” said Isaac Shapiro, director of regulatory policy research at the Economic Policy Institute. “We have good news: Federal protections not only help the environment and improve people’s health but in important arenas also can aid in job creation.”

• Safeguards are frequently discussed only in the context of a threat to job creation, while their role in protecting lives, public health and the environment is ignored. The latest Office of Management and Budget report shows that between 2000 and 2010, the benefits of major regulations reviewed substantially exceeded their costs.

• It is costly to delay regulations, particularly those aimed at making the air cleaner and food safer. Every day that a rule is not in place means more costs in terms of illnesses and lost lives.

“Far from being too stringent, food safety rules are too weak,” said Margo Moskowitz, a Staunton, Va., resident who was poisoned by E. coli  O157: H7-contaminated cookie dough while in her junior year of college. After her sickness, Moskowitz joined STOP Foodborne Illness to take an active role in passing strong food safety legislation, including the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. “Between medical costs and lost productivity, illnesses cost a huge amount. We need a strong system of safeguards to ensure that food corporations do not poison people.”

Added Cathy Stoddart, a registered nurse at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and a member of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, “Federal rules play a critical role in keeping health care workers safe from the risks they face in the workplace. We need more – not fewer – protections.”

 The briefing was held as some lawmakers ramp up attempts to eviscerate the regulatory system. The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2011 (H.R. 10/S. 299), for instance, would threaten critical public protections by requiring congressional review of all major rules, placing an impossibly high burden on Congress in the process. Through a fast-track legislative process, the REINS Act would attempt to force Congress to vote on all new major rules; those having an annual economic impact of $100 million or more. Agencies could implement only those rules approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the president within an implausibly tight deadline of 70 legislative days. Rules that are not affirmatively approved would be automatically rejected.

Lawmakers also are considering measures that would eliminate public protections without public input, add even more layers of review to the rulemaking process, slash agency budgets so they couldn’t function and more.

“In the wake of the Wall Street crash, the BP oil gusher, the Massey mine explosion, poisoned food outbreaks, dangerous toy scandals and much more, it should be self-evident that we need stronger rules to curtail widespread corporate wrongdoing and to protect the public,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen and coalition co-chair. “The REINS Act and other attempts to undermine regulatory protections take us in exactly the wrong direction. They are nothing more than paybacks to Big Business and – if adopted – will jeopardize the well-being of American families.”

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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