Evaluating the Paperwork Reduction Act: Are Burdens Being Reduced?

Mar 28, 2017
Ranking Member
House Committee on Small Business
"Evaluating the Paperwork Reduction Act: Are Burdens Being Reduced?"
March 29, 2017 
The federal paperwork burden continues to grow for small firms. In FY 2015, the public spent an estimated 9.78 billion hours responding to Federal information collections. This total represents a net increase of 350 million burden hours, or about 3.7 percent, from the estimated 9.43 billion hours that the public spent responding to federal information collections in FY 2014.
For small firms, paperwork requirements are particularly burdensome. Due to economies of scale and a lack of in-house lawyers and experts, paperwork compliance is especially costly for small firms.  
The Paperwork Reduction Act or PRA was created in 1980, and amended in 1995, with the intent of curtailing the growth of paperwork, but unfortunately, it has not done so.   One question the Committee seeks to address today is whether current law provides OMB with the right tools to limit this growth or if changes must be made to the PRA to improve its effectiveness.  
At today’s hearing, it is my hope that our witnesses can talk frankly about the underlying weaknesses of the law and whether agencies have adequate resources to comply with it. While OIRA has a difficult task, small businesses deserve to know exactly why their paperwork burden continues to grow.
However, we must also remember that data collections exist for a reason. Agencies rely on data to make informed decisions achieving important policy outcomes. These goals include ensuring worker safety, preserving clean air and water, and safeguarding taxpayer dollars in benefit programs.
Ensuring that agencies are considering the economic impact of their regulations and paperwork requirements on small firms is critical. However, it is also important that regulations adequately protect the public interest. That is why it’s so crucial our agencies receive adequate funding. Without proper resources, it is impossible for them to evaluate and streamline paperwork burdens, or provide the necessary compliance assistance to level the playing field for small firms.
In today’s testimony, we will surely hear about both the successes of OIRA and the obstacles that are preventing the Office from reducing paperwork requirements for small businesses. 
The PRA should not serve to discourage agencies from conducting proper regulatory flexibility analyses.  All too often we see agencies implementing regulations that ignore or understate economic impacts on small businesses.  In many instances, this is because of a lack of communication between the agencies and the small business community.
I hope today’s panels offer insight on what type of reforms may be needed to improve this communication. I also hope to hear about the role new technology and electronic filing can play in reducing regulatory burden. 
Finally, I would note that these mechanisms were designed principally to reduce the burden on small businesses.  Just as we must work to ensure these processes are helping small firms -- we must also be vigilant that these programs are not being hijacked to benefit large corporations – at the expense of their smaller competitors.  
I look forward to working with Chairman Chabot to ensure this important law is meeting its full potential for small businesses.