ALEC Takes Attacks on Health, Safety Standards to the States

Indiana State Capitol Building

-For Immediate Release-
Nov. 13, 2013

Contact: Brian Gumm,, 202-683-4812

ALEC Takes Attacks on Health, Safety Standards to the States

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2013—A study released today by the Center for Effective Government calls on states to reject a push by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and others to undermine public standards and safeguards set at the state level.

"Federal and state health and safety standards have dramatically improved the quality of life in the U.S. over the last half century, allowing us to be confident that unsafe goods and services will not be allowed into the U.S. marketplace," said Katherine McFate, President and CEO of the Center for Effective Government. "But now, ALEC and its industry supporters are promoting proposals that would undermine these protections, under the misleading label of regulatory 'reform'."

The report identifies a number of ways these seemingly innocuous policy changes threaten public health and safety.

"Many of these changes would add procedural requirements that will delay and weaken important safeguards and increase the already outsized influence of corporations in setting environmental, food, consumer, and worker safety policies," said Katie Greenhaw, regulatory policy analyst at the Center for Effective Government and author of the report.

Several proposals call for a centralized agency or office to review rules, either in the state legislature or the state executive branch. Such reviews would allow political considerations to overrule the scientific judgment of experts that went into the development of important standards and safeguards. This could open the door to attempts by industry lobbyists to undermine the normal rulemaking process by pushing legislators to "veto" a rule after an agency has compiled expert knowledge, invested in impact studies, and held public hearings to gather input from affected interests and state residents.

On the executive branch side, some proposals would give the governor of a state unfettered authority to eliminate safeguards, even those required to implement existing law.

Other proposals would mire agencies in never-ending analyses, including flawed cost-benefit analyses that focus predominantly on costs to industry, rather than the benefits of health and safety protections to the quality of people’s lives. Cost-benefit analyses are notorious for overestimating compliance costs while giving short shrift to the immense public benefits standards and safeguards provide to state residents.

The most extreme proposals would impose moratoriums on all new and improved standards. Such blanket bans on rules would essentially sabotage laws that have already been passed by prohibiting agencies from making rules that implement and enforce those laws.

The report provides several ways states can address such concerns to ensure that their oversight agencies develop health and safety standards that address emerging hazards in a timely fashion:

  • Limit the standards subject to redundant analyses and politicized reviews
  • Curb political and industry interference in setting standards and safeguards
  • Increase transparency in the regulatory review process
  • Reduce reliance on cost-benefit analyses

"The ALEC model would undo decades of progress in keeping toxic chemicals out of our water, pollution out of our air, and contaminants out of our food and medicines," said Greenhaw. "States should reject this approach."

The report is available online at

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