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Business groups hope President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting federal regulations will help the economy. Advocacy groups worry that stripping regulations could damage the environment, workers’ wages or employee conditions.

Idaho leaders in both camps wonder how Trump’s “one in, two out” order will play out.

Under Monday’s order, which Trump said is designed to help small businesses, a federal agency proposing one new regulation must propose to repeal at least two existing ones.

In addition, the cost of regulations created by each agency in 2017 must be “no greater than zero, unless required by law or consistent with advice provided in writing by the director of the Office of Management and Budget.” The cost of new regulations can be offset by the savings achieved by repealing old ones. In future years, the OMB director will set regulatory cost ceilings and have the power to approve regulations that exceed those limits.

The Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce said it generally supports reducing the regulatory burdens shouldered by businesses, but spokeswoman Caroline Merritt said the chamber will await clarification before weighing the Trump order’s benefits.

“We want to see how the administration will work with Congress and take the input of businesses to make these campaign promises happen,” she said.

Suzanne Budge, director of the Idaho chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said the order is welcome news for small businesses that lack the staffs to handle compliance.

“You won’t find many small businesses that won’t agree we should get rid of outdated and unnecessary regulations,” Budge said. “They’ll say, ‘Go forth, and sooner rather than later.’ 

The Idaho Conservation League, an environmental group, said the order leaves vital questions unanswered. For example, if the Environmental Protection Agency proposes a regulation related to clean air, must it delete two other clean air regulations? Director Justin Hayes said the order doesn’t say.

“This is governing with bumper sticker slogans,” Hayes said. “It’s about sound bites. It’s about looking like you are doing something without actually doing anything thoughtful.”

Idaho delegation supportive

Three members of Idaho’s all-Republican congressional delegation endorsed the order, and the fourth, Sen. Mike Crapo, agreed with its goals.

Sen. Jim Risch said small businesses “are being strangled” by regulations.

“Every time they turn around, there is another rule or compliance mandate from the federal government, and what Washington bureaucrats don’t understand or care about is the degree to which these regulations increase costs and uncertainty in the business world,” he said. “President Trump’s executive order is a good first step.”

Rep. Mike Simpson said costly rules frustrate businesses.

“Previous administrations have issued rules without considering both their cost and benefits,” he said. “The president’s action will reduce regulatory burdens on businesses and require federal agencies to consider the costs associated with rules. This is a step in the right direction.”

Rep. Raul Labrador said he is gratified that Trump is keeping a campaign promise.

“This is great for Idaho,” he said. “For far too long federal regulatory overreach has hurt our economy, especially in rural Idaho.”

Crapo said complying with regulations costs an estimated $1.8 trillion a year. “We must act firmly now to roll back excessive government and require that all federal regulations pass stringent cost-benefit analysis,” he said.

Lawyer says order will be challenged

Mark Ryan, a lawyer in Boise and Winthrop, Wash., crafted clean water regulations in 24 years working at the EPA and now specializes in federal law. Ryan said there’s “nothing inherently wrong” with the order’s one-in, two-out mandate, but it will be more practical for some agencies than others.

“It’s kind of a blunt instrument,” he said. “It would be more intelligent to look at what regulations are necessary and which ones we can get rid of.”

Ryan said the order likely would have a freezing effect. “My guess is we won’t see a lot of two-for-one [proposals] at all,” he said.

He also said the order is likely to be challenged in court, but not until an agency proposes a new regulation and repeals two others.

Ryan said that because of the stream of executive orders coming coming out of the White House, “I think the lawyers will be very busy.

“That’s consistent with the president’s past. He’s been very litigious.”

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