Gains and Shortcomings in Resolving Regulatory Conflicts and Overlaps

PAD-81-76: Published: Jun 23, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 1981.

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Craig A. Simmons
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In response to growing concern in Congress and in the business community, GAO examined the nature, extent, and causes of conflicting and overlapping regulatory requirements. GAO met with various Federal officials, reviewed pertinent documents, and asked 50 large companies to provide it with specific examples of conflict and overlap.

About half of the responding companies said that regulatory conflict and overlap were not a major problem or that other regulatory issues, especially excessive regulation, excessive paperwork, and the unresponsiveness of the rulemaking process, were of equal or greater concern to them. Although the companies said regulatory conflict and overlap did not pose a major economic burden on them, they found it difficult to make specific cost estimates. Conflict and overlap examples fell into three categories: (1) interacting requirements, (2) overlapping jurisdictions, and (3) duplicative enforcement. Authorizing legislation is one source of regulatory conflict and overlap. The statutory causes include single-purpose legislation that fails to establish priorities, broad delegations of statutory authority that fail to establish clear jurisdictions, and overly specific procedural requirements. Another source of regulatory conflict and overlap is the manner in which regulatory agencies exercise their authority. A third source is the sharing of rulemaking and enforcement responsibilities. Finally, Federal and State standards are not always consistent. Congressional efforts to reduce conflict and overlap have concentrated on improving regulatory management rather than making major structural realignment of agencies' responsibilities. The GAO study supports the need for close Federal-State working relationships. State and local government participation at an early stage in rulemaking and enforcement should be encouraged.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in cooperation with the Task Force on Regulatory Relief, should: (1) require regulatory agencies to assess the effects associated with interacting regulatory requirements as part of their procedures to conduct regulatory impact analyses; (2) continue to study selected industries to identify and mediate regulatory problems such as conflict and overlap; (3) identify and evaluate statutory impediments to regulatory coordination and recommend legislative changes when necessary to allow agencies to work together; and (4) require regulatory agencies to schedule for concurrent review closely related rules that establish requirements for the same product, process, or substance.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget


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