President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders Wednesday afternoon with the goal of creating more transparency in the process of creating and promulgating federal regulations.
“Today, we take bold, new action to protect Americans from out-of-control bureaucracy and stop regulators from imposing secret rules and hidden penalties on the American people,” Trump said at the Wednesday afternoon signing at the White House.
One of the two executive orders bars federal agencies from skipping the cost-benefit analysis and avoiding public comment when issuing legally binding requirements related to laws and regulations and requires that “guidance documents” be treated as “non-binding both in law and in practice.”
“For many decades, federal agencies have been issuing thousands of pages of so-called ‘guidance’ documents — a pernicious kind of regulation imposed by unaccountable bureaucrats in the form of commentary on how rules should be interpreted,” the president continued. “Because of these materials and the fact that these materials are too often hidden and hard to find, many Americans learn of the rules only when federal agents come knocking on the door.”
“Guidance documents” can take the form of blog posts, letters, brochures, and other forms of communications that aren’t proper federal regulations and don’t go through the public process for them.
The president added that a regulatory system like this “gravely undermines our constitutional system of government” and that “a permanent federal bureaucracy cannot become a fourth branch of government, unanswerable to American voters.”
The second executive order aims to protect people from secretive interpretations of existing regulations and unexpected penalties by requiring that no person should be subjected to regulatory enforcement “absent prior public notice of both the enforcing agency’s jurisdiction over particular conduct and the legal standards applicable to that conduct.”
Present at the signing event was Andy Johnson, a Wyoming rancher who, during the Obama administration, was surprised with $16 million in fines from the Environmental Protection Agency for trying to build a pond on his own property. The Obama administration eventually settled after the story and the resulting court case gained national attention.
“About five years ago, when I applied for a stock pond permit for my private property, I had no idea that the EPA would come knocking at my door and threaten me and my family — civilly, criminally, and a fine of $37,500 per day,” Johnson said at the ceremony. “We won our case, but unlike a lot of other middle class Americans, that’s not the case. … The litigation was way, way too expensive.”
In a statement to Blaze Media, acting Office of Management and Budget director Russ Vought said that Wednesday’s orders “give this Administration the tools to defend Americans’ freedom and liberty against off-the-book regulations and prevent unfair penalties from being levied on American families and businesses by rogue agencies.”