Gains and Shortcomings in Resolving Regulatory Conflicts and Overlaps

Gao ID: PAD-81-76 June 23, 1981

In response to growing concern in Congress and in the business community, GAO examined the nature, extent, and causes of conflicting and overlapping regulatory requirements. GAO met with various Federal officials, reviewed pertinent documents, and asked 50 large companies to provide it with specific examples of conflict and overlap.

About half of the responding companies said that regulatory conflict and overlap were not a major problem or that other regulatory issues, especially excessive regulation, excessive paperwork, and the unresponsiveness of the rulemaking process, were of equal or greater concern to them. Although the companies said regulatory conflict and overlap did not pose a major economic burden on them, they found it difficult to make specific cost estimates. Conflict and overlap examples fell into three categories: (1) interacting requirements, (2) overlapping jurisdictions, and (3) duplicative enforcement. Authorizing legislation is one source of regulatory conflict and overlap. The statutory causes include single-purpose legislation that fails to establish priorities, broad delegations of statutory authority that fail to establish clear jurisdictions, and overly specific procedural requirements. Another source of regulatory conflict and overlap is the manner in which regulatory agencies exercise their authority. A third source is the sharing of rulemaking and enforcement responsibilities. Finally, Federal and State standards are not always consistent. Congressional efforts to reduce conflict and overlap have concentrated on improving regulatory management rather than making major structural realignment of agencies' responsibilities. The GAO study supports the need for close Federal-State working relationships. State and local government participation at an early stage in rulemaking and enforcement should be encouraged.


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