Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed Senate amended (03/19/1996)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Title I: Regulatory Compliance Simplification

Title II: Regulatory Enforcement Reforms

Title III: Equal Access to Justice Act Amendments

Title IV: Regulatory Flexibility Act Amendments

Title V: Congressional Review

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 - Title I: Regulatory Compliance Simplification - States that for each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a final regulatory flexibility analysis, the agency shall publish one or more guides to assist small entities (businesses) in complying. Designates such publications as small entity compliance guides. Requires such guides to be provided through comprehensive sources of information. Limits judicial review with respect to the designation of such guides.

(Sec. 103) Provides that, whenever appropriate, it shall be the practice of the agency to answer inquiries by small entities concerning information on and advice about compliance with statutes and regulations. Requires each agency regulating the activities of small entities to establish a program for responding to such inquiries within one year after enactment of this Act.

(Sec. 104) Amends the Small Business Act to require small business development centers to provide assistance to small businesses concerning regulatory requirements and to develop informational publications and programs which assist such small businesses.

(Sec. 105) Requires manufacturing technology centers and other similar centers administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to provide such assistance and develop such publications and programs.

(Sec. 106) Authorizes agencies to develop guides that fully integrate requirements of both Federal and State regulations where regulations within such agency's area of interest affect small businesses.

Title II: Regulatory Enforcement Reforms - Requires the Small Business Administration (SBA) to designate a Small Business and Agriculture Regulatory Enforcement Ombudsman to: (1) ensure that small businesses that receive an audit, inspection, or other enforcement action are given a confidential means to comment on such enforcement activity; (2) establish means to receive comments from small businesses regarding enforcement actions; (3) report annually to the Congress on such comments; and (4) provide the affected agency with an opportunity to comment.

Directs the SBA to establish a Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board (Board) in each SBA regional office. Requires each Board to: (1) meet at least annually and report to the Ombudsman on instances of excessive enforcement actions taken against small businesses; and (2) consist of owners and operators of small entities.

(Sec. 202) Requires each agency regulating the activities of small entities to establish, within one year of enactment of this Act, a policy or program to provide for the reduction and possible waiver of civil penalties for violations of a statutory or regulatory requirement by a small entity. Requires each such agency to report to the Congress concerning the implementation of its program or policy.

Title III: Equal Access to Justice Act Amendments - Amends Federal provisions concerning administrative and judicial proceedings to: (1) increase from $75 to $125 the authorized hourly rate of attorney's fees that may be awarded in such proceedings; and (2) provide for the award of attorney's fees for a party or small entity.

Title IV: Regulatory Flexibility Act Amendments - Requires each agency that publishes an initial regulatory flexibility analysis with respect to a proposed rule to prepare, after such rule is published, a final regulatory flexibility analysis containing specified information, including the need for and objectives of the rule and its possible reporting, recordkeeping, and other effects on small entities.

(Sec. 402) Revises judicial review procedures for small entities adversely affected or aggrieved by agency regulatory actions or requirements.

(Sec. 404) Revises procedures concerning the gathering of comments on regulatory rules to allow the solicitation and reception of comments over computer networks. Provides that, prior to publication of an initial or final regulatory flexibility analysis of a rule, an agency shall provide, through the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the SBA, notice and information to small entities concerning the potential impacts of such rule. Requires the agency to convene a review panel to review the rule, collect advice and recommendations from small entities identified to be affected by such rule, and report on such comments and other issues raised. Requires such report to be made public as part of the rulemaking record. Authorizes the Chief Counsel to waive the review panel requirements of this section if the Chief Counsel finds that such requirements would not advance the effective participation of small entities in the rulemaking process.

Requires the head of each agency that has conducted a final regulatory flexibility analysis to designate a small business advocacy chairperson to be responsible for implementing this section and to act as permanent chair of the agency's review panels established under this section.

Title V: Congressional Review - Congressional Review Act of 1996 - Provides that before a rule can take effect as a final rule, the Federal agency promulgating such rule shall submit to each House of Congress and the Comptroller General a report containing: (1) a copy of the rule; (2) a concise general statement of the rule; and (3) its proposed effective date. Requires such agency, upon request, to also supply certain other information, including a cost-benefit analysis of the rule. Directs the Comptroller General to report on each significant rule to the committees of jurisdiction of each House of Congress. Makes a significant rule effective as a final rule on the latter of the date 45 days after: (1) the Congress receives the report on such rule; or (2) the rule is published in the Federal Register. Prohibits a rule from taking effect if the Congress passes a joint resolution of disapproval under procedures prescribed in this Act. Authorizes the President to waive such a resolution if he determines, and notifies the Congress in writing, that the waiver is necessary: (1) because of an imminent threat to health or safety or other emergency; (2) for the enforcement of criminal laws; or (3) for national security. Outlines the procedure for the congressional treatment of rules issued 60 days or earlier before the Congress adjourns a session. Provides transition rules for rules issued before enactment of this title. Provides congressional rule disapproval procedures. Defines "significant rule" for purposes of this section as a rule having an annual economic effect of $100 million or more, adversely affecting the economy in a material way, or having certain other material or legal impact.

(Sec. 505) Provides that, in the case of any deadline for or relating to any rule which does not take effect because of the enactment of a congressional joint resolution, such deadline is extended until 12 months after the date of such resolution.

(Sec. 507) Prohibits judicial review of determinations made under this title.

(Sec. 509) States that the congressional review procedures of this title shall not apply to rules that: (1) concern monetary policy proposed or implemented by the Federal Reserve System or Federal Open Market Committee; or (2) establish or modify a regulatory program for a commercial, recreational, or subsistence activity relating to hunting, fishing, or camping.