|Regulatory Flexibility Act|
|Full title||The Regulatory Flexibility Act|
|Acronym / colloquial name||RFA / "the Reg Flex Act"|
|Effective||1 January 1981|
|Public Law||P.L. 96-354|
|U.S. Statutes at Large||94 Stat 1164|
|Act(s) amended||Administrative Procedure Act|
|Title(s) amended||Title 5, United States Code|
|U.S.C. sections created||Sections 601 - 612|
|Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), P. L. 104-121, 1996|
The Regulatory Flexibility Act is perhaps the most comprehensive effort by the U. S. federal government to balance the social goals of federal regulations with the needs and capabilities of small businesses and other small entities in American society.
In practice, the RFA has been an interesting and much-imitated attempt to "scale" the actions of the federal government to the size of the groups and organizations affected.
Passed in 1980, the RFA has been gradually strengthened in the intervening years, and has historically enjoyed strong bipartisan support.
Since the federal government began calculating the economic impact of the RFA in 1998, the law is estimated to have saved small entities (and the U. S. economy as a whole) more than $200 billion [] without undermining the broad purposes of the regulations it affects. More than 40 U. S. states have enacted similar laws.
The origins of the RFA can be traced back to expressions of discontent about federal regulations by small businesses from the 1930s onward, but the urgency of these concerns grew sharply as new federal agencies were created, and older ones given fresh mandates to pursue, in the 1960s and 1970s.
A parallel development, beginning in the 1970s, was the publication of increasingly compelling research on the economic role of smaller enterprises. These studies showed a strong link between the vitality of small business in the U. S. (and other nations) and the growth of overall employment and technological innovation.
These factors, together with the increasing political assertiveness of U. S. small businesses, provided impetus for a remarkable series of laws enacted from 1976-1984. In addition to the Regulatory Flexibility Act, these laws included the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Small Business Development Center Act , the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) [] [], the Small Business Innovation Research Act (SBIR), and the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) []. The Paper Reduction Act, officially the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, Pub The Small Business Innovation Research (or SBIR) program is a United States Government program coordinated by the Small Business Administration, in which
The first in this line of laws was enacted in June 1976, when President Gerald Ford signed Public Law 94-305 creating an Office of Advocacy  within the U. Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr (July 14 1913 December 26 2006 was the thirty-eighth President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977 and the fortieth Vice President S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and giving that Office responsibility for assessing the impact of federal regulations on small firms. The Small Business Administration ( SBA) is a United States government agency that provides support to Small businesses. The law called on the Office of Advocacy to “measure the direct costs and other effects of government regulation on small businesses; and make legislative and nonlegislative proposals for eliminating excessive or unnecessary regulations of small businesses. ”
This was a significant recognition of the issue of scale in federal regulations, but its remedies -- measuring effects and offering proposals -- were incomplete.
On August 1, 1977, Senators Gaylord Nelson (D, WI) and John Culver (D, IA) introduced the earliest version of the Regulatory Flexibility Act in Congress. Gaylord Anton Nelson ( June 4, 1916 July 3, 2005) was an American Democratic politician from Wisconsin. John Chester Culver (born August 8, 1932) is an American politician of the Democratic Party who represented Iowa in both the United Their bill directed federal agencies to actually seek less burdensome regulations for small businesses, and assigned responsibility to the new Office of Advocacy to monitor compliance.
Following several hearings, the bill was revised in a number of ways, notably by including small nonprofit organizations and small governmental bodies within its jurisdiction. The legislation attracted more than 70 of the Senate's 100 members as co-sponsors, and passed the U. S. Senate unanimously in October 1978, although it was not acted upon by the U. S. House of Representatives until a new Congress convened in 1979.
Like later versions of the RFA, the 1977-8 legislation zeroed in on the basic law governing the conduct of all federal agencies, called the Administrative Procedure Act. The federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA of 1946 governs the way in which administrative agencies of the United States federal government may propose The RFA amended this statute by designating a new responsibility for federal agencies. Henceforth agencies would be required to assess the impact of their regulations on small entities (small businesses, small nonprofit organizations and small governmental jurisdictions) as a key part of the process for issuing regulations, and to use less burdensome alternatives whenever possible.
One of the creative aspects of the RFA was the method that it required the agencies to use.
Both Senators Nelson and Culver were noted environmentalists, so they adapted an approach used earlier in the National Environmental Policy Act. The National Environmental Policy Act ( NEPA) is a United States environmental law that was signed into law on January 1, 1970 by U Agencies were to develop an "initial" analysis of the effects of a proposed regulation on small entities (similar to a preliminary environmental impact analysis), seek comments, and then refine these inputs into a "final" small entity impact analysis (similar to a final environmental impact analysis).
In the fall of 1979, as the Regulatory Flexibility Act moved forward in Congress, President Jimmy Carter took steps to advance some of the goals of the legislation administratively. James Earl "Jimmy" Carter Jr (born October 1 1924 was the thirty-ninth President of the United States, serving from 1977 to 1981 and the recipient of the 2002 He added the Small Business Administration to his Regulatory Council and issued a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies, directing them “. . . to make sure that federal regulations will not place unnecessary burdens on small businesses and organizations,” and to apply regulations “in a flexible manner, taking into account the size and nature of the regulated businesses. ” Agencies were to report on their efforts to the Office of Advocacy.
Meanwhile, the House and Senate Small Business and Judiciary Committees continued to hold hearings on the effects of regulation. Small business representatives cited evidence that uniform application of regulatory requirements made it difficult for smaller businesses to enter into various lines of business and to compete.
In January 1980, small business leaders elected by their peers assembled as delegates to the first modern White House Conference on Small Business. The final conference report noted that “during the past decade, the growth of government regulation has been explosive, particularly in such areas as affirmative-action hiring, energy conservation, and protection for consumers, workers, and the environment. Small business people recognize that some government regulation is essential for maintaining an orderly society. But there are now 90 agencies issuing thousands of new rules each year. ”
Moreover, the report said, the new Office of Advocacy had estimated that small firms spent $12. 7 billion annually on government paperwork. Among the conference recommendations, a top vote-getter was a recommendation calling for “sunset review” and economic impact analysis of regulations, as well as a regulatory review board with small business representation. The conference delegates recommended putting the onus of measuring regulatory costs on the regulatory agencies—to “require all federal agencies to analyze the cost and relevance of regulations to small businesses. ”
The White House Conference recommendations lent significant impetus for the passage, in September 1980, of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) . The intent of the act was clearly stated:
“It is the purpose of this act to establish as a principle of regulatory issuance that agencies shall endeavor, consistent with the objectives…of applicable statutes, to fit regulatory and informational requirements to the scale of businesses…To achieve this principle, agencies are required to solicit and consider flexible regulatory proposals and to explain the rationale for their actions to assure that such proposals are given serious consideration. "
The key requirement of the law is that federal agencies must analyze the impact of their regulatory actions on small entities (small businesses, small non-profit organizations and small jurisdictions of government) and, where the regulatory impact is likely to be "significant", affecting a "substantial number" of these small entities, seek less burdensome alternatives for them. Both current and proposed federal regulations are subject to the RFA.
The process for seeking these less burdensome alternatives is three-fold: agencies must reach out to the affected small entities and solicit their views, the views of the SBA Office of Advocacy must be considered, and agencies must publish both an initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA), and/or a final regulatory flexibility analysis (FRFA) in the Federal Register, or provide a certification that the regulation will have no such "significant impact. The Federal Register (since March 14, 1936) abbreviated Fed Reg "
The RFA has added important elements of management oversight, predictability and transparency to the federal regulatory process. This is particularly evident in the government-wide semi-annual regulatory agendas  that the RFA requires.
These documents, now known as "unified agendas,"  note all planned federal regulations. Those regulations expected to "significantly" impact small entities, thereby triggering special analyses under the RFA, are separately indexed , as are those that may affect small entities, but not "significantly. "  The unified agendas also single out anticipated regulations covered by other statutes  and executive orders .
One of the more ambitious aspects of the RFA is its requirement that federal agencies review all of their existing regulations over a period of ten years and revise those which are duplicative, excessively burdensome, or no longer necessary. Although this RFA provision (Section 610 of the Act) is often ignored by agencies, a plan for this review of existing regulations is likewise published with the unified agendas .
It is important to note that the RFA does not compel specific regulatory outcomes. Agencies are required to assess the impacts of their proposed and final rules on small entities, and to select less burdensome alternatives -- or explain why they cannot do so. But they are not required to alter their agency missions or their legal mandates. Like the Administrative Procedure Act that it amends, the RFA primarily defines the required procedural steps in a process. While agency non-compliance with these required steps can (and has) led to suspensions of various regulations by the courts, it is the failure to faithfully observe the process, not the subject matter of the regulations, that has led to these outcomes.
The RFA comprises Chapter 6 of Title 5 of the United States Code.
The RFA tasked SBA's Office of Advocacy with monitoring agency compliance with the new law. Over the next decade and a half, the Office carried out its mandate, reporting annually on agency compliance to the President and the Congress.
Those reports soon made it clear that the law wasn’t strong enough. A briefing paper prepared for the 1986 White House Conference on Small Business noted: “The effectiveness of the Regulatory Flexibility Act largely depends on small business’ awareness of proposed regulations and [their] ability to effectively voice [their] concerns to regulatory agencies. In addition, the courts’ ability to review agency compliance with the law is limited. ”
The delegates to the 1986 conference recommended that the RFA be strengthened by requiring agencies to comply and by providing that agency action or inaction be subject to judicial review. President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 report on small business noted: “Regulations and excessive paperwork place small businesses at a disadvantage in an increasingly competitive world marketplace…This Administration supports continued deregulation and other reforms to eliminate regulatory obstacles to open competition. ” But it would take an act of Congress to make judicial review law—and reaching that consensus needed more time.
Regulations’ effects on the economic environment for competition also concerned President George H. W. Bush, whose 1992 message in the annual small business report noted: “My Administration this year instituted a moratorium on new federal regulations to give federal agencies a chance to review and revise their rules. George Herbert Walker Bush (born June 12 1924 served as the forty-first President of the United States from 1989 to 1993 And we are looking at ways to improve our regulatory process over the long term so that regulations will accomplish their original purpose without hindering economic growth. ”
In early September 1993, Vice President Al Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government also urged that the Regulatory Flexibility Act be strengthened by permitting judicial review of agency compliance. Albert Arnold Gore Jr (born March 31 1948 is an American environmental Activist, author Businessperson, former Politician, and former National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR originally the National Performance Review, was an interagency task force to reform the way the U
A few weeks later, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 12866, “Regulatory Planning and Review,”  designed, among other things, to ease the regulatory burden on small firms. William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe III, August 19 1946 served as the forty-second President of the United States
The order required federal agencies to analyze their major regulatory undertakings and to take action to ensure that these regulations achieved the desired results with minimal burden on the U. S. economy.
An April 1994 report by the Government Accountability Office reviewed the Office of Advocacy’s annual reports on agency compliance with the RFA and concluded: “The SBA annual reports indicated agencies’ compliance with the RFA has varied widely from one agency to another. The Government Accountability Office ( GAO) is the Audit, Evaluation, and investigative arm of the United States Congress. …the RFA does not authorize SBA or any other agency to compel rulemaking agencies to comply with the act’s provisions. ”
In June 1995, a third White House Conference on Small Business  examined the RFA’s weaknesses. Despite the Clinton Administration's support for strengthening the law, as exemplified in the Vice President's recommendation in the National Performance Review, the key element for doing so -- judicial review of agency compliance -- remained missing.
Once again, a White House Conference forcefully addressed the problem. One of its recommendations fine-tuned the regulatory policy recommendations of earlier conferences, asking for specific provisions that would include small firms in the rulemaking process.
In October, the Office of Advocacy issued a report, based on research by Thomas Hopkins, that estimated the total costs of process, environmental, and other social and economic regulations to be between $420 billion and $670 billion in 1995. The report estimated that the average cost of regulation was $2,979 per employee for large firms with 500 or more employees and $5,532 per employee for small firms with fewer than 20 employees.  (A successor study by Mark Crain, in 2005, documented a similar pattern. ) []
In March 1996, President Clinton acted on the 1995 White House Conference recommendation that was taken up by Congress, by signing Public Law 104-121, the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) . The new law finally strengthened the RFA in the way that previous reports and conferences had recommended. Perhaps most significantly, it gave the courts jurisdiction to review agency compliance with the RFA.
SBREFA also mandated that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) convene small business advocacy review panels to consult with small entities on regulations expected to have a significant impact on them, before the regulations were published for public comment. The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. [][]
And the law reaffirmed the authority of the chief counsel for advocacy to file amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in appeals brought by small entities from agency final actions.
Since 1998, the Office of Advocacy's Annual Reports on RFA Implementation have calculated regulatory cost savings attributable to the RFA. Through 2006, these savings have totaled just over $200 billion, of which $156 billion are recurring savings each year. []. )
In August 2002, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13272 , further implementing the RFA. George Walker Bush ( born July 6 1946 is the forty-third and current President of the United States. The Executive Order requires federal agencies to establish written procedures and policies explaining how they measure the impact of their regulatory proposals on small entities and to vet those policies with the Office of Advocacy; to notify the Office of Advocacy before publishing draft rules expected to have a significant small business impact; and to consider the Office of Advocacy’s written comments on proposed rules and publish a response with the final rule. E. O. 13272 also requires the Office of Advocacy to provide notification as well as training to all agencies on how to comply with the RFA. These additional requirements permit the Office of Advocacy to work closely with federal agencies in considering the impacts of proposed regulations on small entities.
To comply with E. O. 13272, the Office of Advocacy began providing reports to the Office of Management and Budget in September 2003. The Office also instituted an email address (notify. advocacy@sba. gov) for agencies to rapidly transmit their notifications about regulations, and published an RFA compliance guide for agencies.
Subsequently, the Office of Advocacy prepared agency training materials, and began training agency personnel throughout the government.
Nearly all of the cabinet agencies complied with the E. O. by submitting written plans for compliance to the Office of Advocacy and by making their RFA procedures publicly available. Advocacy, in turn, developed a Regulatory Alerts webpage at http://www.sba.gov/advo/laws/law_regalerts.html to call attention to important pending regulations that may affect small entities.
The final chapter on how much small businesses and other small entities are benefiting from the RFA as amended by SBREFA and supplemented by E. O. 13272 has yet to be written. Legislation has been introduced to further enhance the RFA. As agencies adjust their regulatory development processes to accommodate the RFA and E. O. 13272’s requirements, the benefits will accrue to small entities. Agencies are making strides in that direction.
Since the RFA became law, more than forty state governments have enacted similar statutes. [] Both the SBA Office of Advocacy and the American Legislative Exchange Council, an association of state legislators, have drafted "model" state laws paralleling the RFA. [].
Keith W. Holman, The Regulatory Flexibility Act at 25: Is the Law Achieving its Goal?, Fordham Urb. L. J. , Vol XXXIII (2006), pp. 1119-1137. 
Michael R. See, Willful Blindness: Federal Agencies’ Failure to Comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act’s Periodic Review Requirement—and Current Proposals to Invigorative the Act, 33 Fordham Urb. L. J. 1199 (2006) .
Jennifer A. Smith, Squeezing Back: Making Federal Agencies Measure Their Economic Impact on Small Entities, Mineral Law Institute, 2007 
Paul Verkuil, A Critical Guide to the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 1982 Duke L. J. 213, pp. 124 - 178.
Aeronautical Repair Station Association, Inc. , et. al. v. Federal Aviation Administration, 494 F. 3rd 161 (D. C. Circuit, 2007)
American Trucking Associations, Inc. v. U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, 175 F. 3d 1027, 336 U. S. App. D. C. 16 (D. C. Circuit, 1999)
Mid-Tex Electric Co-op Inc. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 249 U. S. App. D. C. 64, 773 F. 2d 327(1985)
Northwest Mining Association v. Babbitt, 5 F. Supp. 2d 9, (D. D. C. 1998)
Southern Offshore Fishing Association v. Daley, 55 F. Supp. 2d 1336 (M. D. Fla. 1999).
United States Telcom Association v. Federal Communications Commission, 400 F. 3d 29 (D. C. Circuit, 2005)
and see generally "Regulatory Flexibility Act Shepardizing: Case Law"