Regulatory Flexibility Act:

Clarification of Key Terms Still Needed

GAO-02-491T: Published: Mar 6, 2002. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 2002.

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The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA) requires agencies to prepare an initial and a final regulatory flexibility analysis. The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA) seeks to strengthen RFA protections for small entities, and some of the act's requirements are built on "significant impact." GAO has reviewed the implementation of RFA and SBREFA several times in recent years, with topics ranging from specific provisions in each statute to the overall implementation of RFA. Although both of these reforms have clearly affected how federal agencies regulate, GAO believes that their full promise has not been realized, and key questions about RFA remain unanswered. These questions lie at the heart of RFA and SBREFA, and their answers can have a substantive effect on the amount of regulatory relief provided through those statutes. Because Congress did not answer these questions when the statutes were enacted, agencies have had to develop their own answers, and those answers differ.

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