Opposition to H.R. 350 –
The “Mandates Information Act”
H.R. 350, sponsored by Representative Gary Condit (D-CA), is scheduled to be heard by the House Rules Committee February 2, 1999. Public Citizen strongly opposes this procedural roadblock bill:
* H.R. 350 creates a point of order on the House Floor against any bill that will cost the private sector more than $100 million annually in direct implementation costs. They would thus allow tough food safety, environmental protection, public health, or worker safety safeguards to be sideswiped by a procedural vote, instead of being voted up or down on their merits.
* The bill amends the Unfunded Mandates Relief Act (UMRA) to require cost estimates on bills to include not only direct costs of protective legislation but also indirect costs on “consumers, workers and small businesses”- thus inviting a fishing expedition to attribute projected consumer price increases, lost wages and jobs, and small business closures to the the public safeguard. on consumers, workers and small businesses.
* Even if the costs of a bill are funded, there is no exemption from the point of order. Reauthorization bills are also covered.
Major Problems with H.R. 350:
* The bill is intended to elevate and politicize the issue of industry costs for public protections. Proponents state publicly that the threat that a point of order will be raised will have a “deterrent effect” when important public protections are considered in committee. On the floor, a vote to support vitally needed public protections will be made a political litmus test and tagged a “big spender” vote. Ideology will take precedence over a vote on the merits of, and need for, the particular public protection at stake.
* The bill will almost inevitably exaggerate industry costs. The quickest source for industry cost data will be from companies which may oppose the public protection. They can submit high-end cost estimates with impunity because they cannot be prospectively verified. Past experience shows this is not an idle threat:
* In the 1980s, utilities claimed acid rain controls would cost $1,500 a ton; the actual figure is about $100.
* In 1992, Texaco’s CEO said cleaner gasoline “may cost as much as 25 cents a gallon.” The real cost is 3 to 5 cents a gallon .
* High end estimates of indirect costs will provide opponents with “mega-numbers” to politically batter urgently needed public protections.
* The value of protecting the public is not part of the equation. Only costs count, not benefits.
For more information, please contact Maura Kealey at 546-4996 ext. 371 or Nicole Alt (ext. 317).
January 27, 1999