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Obama Administration’s Retrospective Review Plan

Yesterday, the Obama Administration announced the plans from thirty agencies to conduct retrospective review of regulations—a step towards following up on a presidential executive order issued in January.

The move was referred to as an initial review that would begin the ongoing process focusing on what the administration called “evidence-based, cost-effective rules.” Hundreds of regulations are queued in the proposed punch list for repeal or amendment. Some target reductions in paperwork and others look at more significant changes, but overall the suggestions call attention to the need for more frequent review.

This is an important step toward creating a lasting system of retrospective review that continuingly evaluates, updates, and improves regulation. Too often, regulations are placed on the books without adequate follow-up to ensure they maximize net benefits. An effective regulatory system benefits the American public, but to work properly, the process of examining rules must be neutral, not be biased either in favor or against regulation. It must also adequately examine both areas of under-regulation as well as unnecessary regulatory burdens.

To the extent these draft plans do that, they are a step in the right direction. But there is a great deal more to be done. Over the coming months, the Obama Administration will have an opportunity to build on this step by creating a well-structured and balanced system of regulatory review that becomes an enduring feature of the administrative system.