Legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 4078) on July 26, 2012, would prohibit the federal government from issuing any new “significant” workplace-related regulations until the national unemployment rate drops to 6 percent or less.
House Republicans said the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act is their latest effort to boost the struggling U.S. economy and stimulate the stagnant job market. Supporters of the bill claim that new federal workplace regulations and government red tape have placed unnecessary burdens on employers and hampered them from expanding and growing their businesses.
“Hardworking Americans deserve a regulatory system that doesn’t hamstring their ability to invest, hire and grow,” said Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., the chief sponsor of the legislation. “Yet job creators have repeatedly told me how excessive and overly burdensome regulations have prevented them from hiring more employees and growing the economy.”
The bill defines “significant regulatory action” as any new regulation that will have an annual cost of $100 million or more to administer and would “adversely affect the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, small entities, communities, or state, local or tribal governments.”
Nearly 150 national and local business groups voiced their support of the legislation, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. Organized labor and employee advocacy organizations roundly criticized the bill, claiming that if enacted the bill would set a dangerous precedent and serve to erode workplace health and safety protections for millions of U.S. workers.
The bill would allow federal agencies to take a significant regulatory action if the president determines that the new regulation is needed to address an imminent threat to the health and safety of workers or is needed to protect national security. In addition, the legislation would prohibit an out-going president from issuing new federal regulations in the final months of his or her term (between Election Day and the inauguration of the new president).
The legislation did gain some modest bipartisan support when 13 Democrats jumped party lines to vote in favor of the bill. Two Republicans voted against it. Sources familiar with the issue say the legislation will most likely stall in the Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats. In addition, the White House has indicated that President Barack Obama does not support the measure and would most likely veto the proposal if it passes both houses of Congress.
Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.