House Passes Legislation to Modernize Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

By Jud Adams

The House considered H.R.50, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2017, or UMITA, on July 13. Reforming the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, or UMRA, has long been a priority for states.  The bill passed by a vote of 230-168.

President Bill Clinton signed the UMRA into law in an effort to improve regulatory practices and to bring more transparency to regulatory initiatives.  However, its limited scope has continued to allow agencies to write new rules with little input from those affected

UMRA requires agencies to prepare a written statement and cost-benefit analysis for rules that may result in expenditures to state, local and tribal governments of $100 million or more in any one year. A 2015 report by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, estimated that federal regulations and unfunded mandates cost states, cities and the general public between $57 billion and $85 billion each year. OMB also has reported that rules triggering UMRA overwhelmingly have been issued by the EPA. From 2005 to 2008, EPA finalized seven regulations that triggered UMRA. From 2009 to 2014, the EPA issued 19 rules that contained unfunded mandates. 

Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, UMITA’s sponsor, explained that the bill improves localities ability to implement federal policy and provide input in the rule-making process. Rep. Foxx introduced UMITA partially to ensure that seeking input from local governments becomes a greater priority for regulatory agencies. She also stated that this legislation seeks to provide additional openness and honesty about the cost of regulations on state and local governments, codifies section one of President Clinton’s Executive Order 12866, and reaffirms President Obama’s Executive Order 13563. UMITA also improves transparency by fixing loopholes in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and providing public disclosure of the true cost federal mandates pose to the economy.

A Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska introduced the Senate companion  but no action has been taken yet.