Spin-off thoughts from Florida impasse

Maybe it's time to rein in regulators AN INTRIGUING title of an editorial in a recent Wall Street Journal - "Rein in the Regulators" - says a lot more than the simple title indicates. Though the issue of who will be our next president will most likely have been settled by the time this is published, a lot of the driving force of the efforts to recount Florida votes and ad absurdum related, in our opinion. to "regulation."

Who has been the driving force to gain democratic votes in the Florida presidential elections? Who "parachuted in," as described by the media, to jump into the middle of the demands for vote recount? Which interest group stands to lose the most with a Bush victory? Who can dispatch "500" lawyers to assist in overseeing the recount? Who can draw up a checklist of instructions and train vote counters on how to disqualify overseas/military absentee ballots?

With Republicans retaining control over both houses of Congress, much hinges on which party controls the presidency. If a Democrat, a veto of strong tort reform legislation is virtually a sure thing. With a Republican, there is a good chance of passing and sustaining much-needed tort and regulatory reform.

Such a thought is anathema to plaintiff's attorneys. Limiting liability, punitive damages, and the ability to turn about any suit into a "class action" hits the pocketbooks of these lawyers. In the minds of many, these are unprincipled people to whom the end justifies the means. Victory is all that counts.

With this perspective in mind it is easy to see why this particular group puts forth such an extraordinary effort to assure through controlling the Florida election a Democrat in the White House.

Barring successful congressional intervention, the courts are the only recourse to achieve some reasonable balance. Industry and grower groups together or separately have been forced to sue to obtain some sense of justice. Even obtaining information about what data EPA used to make a certain decision is hard to come by.

Recently a suit by the National Association of Manufacturers under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was required to obtain a list of 88 proposed actions by EPA before years end. Even after a court order, EPA only provided a list of 67 contemplated official actions. commenting that the remainder were just "guidance" and not covered by the order.

As for "guidance," EPA for several years has increasingly attempted to skip the Administrative Procedures Act requirements of "notice and comment" for rulemakings and instead has attempted to use "policy" and "guidance" memoranda to achieve the effect of "regulations." Many of the American Crop Protection Association and American Farm Bureau Federation suits over FQPA provisions and suits by others over EPA's overstepping its authority under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act revolves around the attempts to shortcut the law.

Many believe the current administration is involved in an all-out effort to put as much of its regulatory agenda into place before Jan. 20 as it possibly can.

Will Congress have the will to stop much of this grab for additional power? Signs aren't too good right now. Let's hope the courts are more understanding.

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