You might not know it from the general news media frantically competing to spotlight the latest high-level political shenanigans, but work is actually being done in Washington by the new Republican Congress and Trump Administration.
Let’s take a brief glance at some of the groundbreaking developments that occurred seemingly under the radar over the past months. Keep in mind that these are just a few of the changes that occurred in spite of ongoing political turmoil.
“After we repeal and replace Obamacare, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure truckers stay busy moving American goods made by American companies and workers,” the President told truck drivers and fleet executives visiting the White House on March 22, before the health care bill was withdrawn.
Before that event, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had withdrawn its proposed safety fitness rule for truck fleets. Truckers had criticized the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program since its inception for blacklisting fleets based on what are said to be often faulty and out-of-date data.
Issued last year, the FMCSA proposal would have done away with the “Conditional,” “Satisfactory” and “Unsatisfactory” rating system, in favor of a simple “Fit” or “Unfit” designation.
A revamped rule is expected following completion of a research study that was mandated by Congress as part of the last highway program bill.
“We look forward to FMCSA enacting necessary reforms to the CSA program based on this ongoing thorough review,” said American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear.
In a separate development, another congressionally-mandated study apparently has killed the controversial 34-restart provision of the hours-of-service regulations by finding it had failed to promote highway safety (AA, 3-15-17, P. 3).
The Administration also has informed a federal court it is abandoning an Obama era legal defense of the electronic recordkeeping rule that had been issued earlier by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
That rule would require employers to file public electronically injury reports easily accessed by unions and tort attorneys. It also restricts employer drug testing and safety incentive programs.
The Trump Administration also said that it “strongly supports” a bill passed by both the House and Senate to overturn an OSHA edict that employers with 10 or more employees retain injury and illness records for at least five years.
Issued just two days before Trump’s inauguration, the rule sought to get around an earlier federal court holding that the agency cannot bring recordkeeping charges against an employer for reports that are more than six months old (AA, 1-15-17, P. 2).
In addition, the Administration appears to be backing away from defending the controversial overtime rule imposed last year by the Department of Labor that currently is under challenge in court.
Administration lawyers sought and obtained a delay in the case from the Texas judge who enjoined the rules late last year. The need for a delay is blamed on the new Administration’s inability to get a new Secretary of Labor put in place.
Mounting a Broader Front
Taking a broader approach to regulatory reform, Trump also has ordered every federal agency to establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force which he expects will work toward eliminating a raft of unnecessary and burdensome regulations.
The executive order requires the chief of each federal agency to designate a regulatory reform officer by April 25. That officer will form a regulatory reform task force charged with reviewing the agency’s current regulations and identifying which ones need to be modified or repealed.
The President’s order specifically directs each agency task force to locate those regulations that can be deemed costly and unnecessary.
Task force members are instructed to pay particular attention to those rules that eliminate jobs, inhibit job creation, are outdated, ineffective, impose costs that outweigh benefits, or otherwise interfere with the President’s initiatives and policies
In an effort to hold each task force accountable, each agency is required to measure and report the progress being made in achieving these directives.
To emphasize that he is not kidding, the President’s order directs each of the task forces to present a report to their agency head by May 25 providing an update on their progress in identifying regulations that should be repealed, replaced or modified.
In addition, the President’s proposed budget incorporates deep cuts and staff reductions for many of the federal agencies that issue these regulations, as well as the total elimination of some programs.
Other reforms are stalled because of the Administration’s inability to get appointees approved by the Senate, including hundreds of positions below the cabinet secretary level.