While legislation tends to get more attention, the regulatory process within the executive branch is at the core of day-to-day democratic governance. Federal regulation and rule-making engages dozens of agencies and affects every American. The Biden-Harris administration acknowledged the centrality of the regulatory process with two actions on the President's first day in office. The first called for modernizing the regulatory review process, particularly the central oversight role of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The second was an executive order calling on the federal government to support underserved communities and advance racial equity. These two initiatives together lay the groundwork for a reorientation and modernization of the regulatory process to move it in the direction of equity and justice.
To understand the challenges to and advantages of a reformed regulatory review process, New America's Political Reform Program and the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government convened a group of academic experts from across the country to share their findings on the state of regulatory review and to identify alternative measures of not just the cost of regulations, but also the distributional impact of their costs and benefits. These experts specialize in administrative law, economic analysis, public participation, and regulatory review, and their work covers policy areas including patent law, healthcare, and environmental justice.
This conversation focused first on the changes that could be made within the framework of cost-benefit analysis, and then on reforms that would go beyond cost-benefit to new modes of analysis. Much of the discussion centered around ensuring that regulations appropriately benefit and do not harm vulnerable or marginalized communities.