Labor Department Takes Comments on Regulatory Review

The Department of Labor announced March 16 that it will accept public comments on its plan to review existing regulations and their impact. Labor, like all agencies, is conducting the review in accordance with an executive order President Obama signed Jan. 18.

“The Department also requests that submitters provide, in as much detail as possible, an explanation of why a regulation or reporting requirement should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed, as well as specific suggestions of ways the Department can better achieve its regulatory objectives.”

The window for public input is quite small: the comment period closes March 31, only 15 days after the Labor Department opened it, and only nine days from now. The Department is hosting the public discussion using an interactive, blog-like interface at

The brevity may be a symptom of the time frame Obama gave agencies to work within when he issued his executive order. Obama gave agencies 120 days to develop a review plan, which they then must submit to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The 120-day deadline is coming up on May 18.

(Critics of Obama’s order and accompanying Wall Street Journal editorial, including OMB Watch, fear that the regulatory review is being conducted in response to congressional and lobbyist complaints about regulation, and that the review will be used to generate a hit list of regulations industry wants to undo.)

Hopefully, in that short time period, the Labor Department will hear about the important role its standards play in the preservation of worker health, safety, and rights. American workers depend on rules written by Labor Department agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and the Wage and Hour Division, as well as the proper enforcement of those rules.

The Labor Department joins the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as the only agencies, as far as I know, to invite public comment on the regulatory review process.

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