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We all know that Congress has some big ticket items on its agenda for next year - repealing ObamaCare, balancing the budget, reining the president’s executive authority, but receiving less attention than perhaps they should are a number of smaller regulatory battles in which the new Republican majority could make a real difference.
Below are five battles that are shaping up in the new year, where Republicans have indicated an eagerness to fight to roll back some of the Obama administration’s most egregious regulations.
1. Net Neutrality
Following fairly explicit instructions from the president, the Federal Communications Commission is planning to release new regulations to reclassify the internet as a utility and implement Net Neutrality. Fortunately, Republicans are planning to act preemptively with legislation to update the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and definitively remove the internet from the FCC’s purview.
2. School Testing Mandates / Common Core
For years, the Department of Education has been obsessed with imposing constant, endless testing on students for no discernible good reason. President Bush’s No Child Left Behind program has been particularly terrible in this respect, mandating a policy that not only lowers educational flexibility and quality by forcing teachers to “teach to the test”, but also wears down the moral of children, who frequently vomit with anxiety over the ceaseless evaluations.
Now, Republicans - in an unlikely alliance with certain teachers’ unions - are fighting back with legislation that would give states more flexibility in scrapping unnecessary or excessive testing.
3. Food Freedom / Michelle Obama’s School Lunch Program
Speaking of school, Republicans are gearing up to tackle another set of regulations that are making children cry, Michelle Obama’s school lunch program mandates. The federal guidelines are hindering state and local flexibility and costing school districts big bucks in food that is just being thrown away, since no normal child wants to eat it.
This goes hand in hand with FDA regulations dictating that restaurants publicly display calorie counts of every item they serve - including alcoholic beverages. Originally slipped in as part of the Affordable Care Act, this regulation will end up being incredibly costly to businesses, and by extension to consumers. Removing these obstacles to food freedom would be a great start to 2015.
4. Cybersecurity Regulation
In the wake of the high-profile hacking of Sony’s website, the administration is once again antsy about cybersecurity, and is pushing Congress to respond with a new legal framework that would allow for greater regulation of the internet. A major concern with such laws is that they could give the federal government the power to block or otherwise censor certain areas of the internet, with even the possibility of an “internet kill switch” being floated.
The last time this was tried, the suite of proffered bills - dubbed SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA - was defeated after a mass protest led to blackouts of popular sites like WIkipedia and Google. But bad legislation doesn’t die, it just bides its time, and now we have to take up the fight all over again to protect an unregulated internet.
5. IRS Rules for Non-Profits
Last year, the IRS announced a plan to issue new definitions of what constitutes “social welfare” and “political activity” for the purposes of non-profit organizations. The practical effect of these regulations would be to effectively dismantle a large percentage of the country’s political non-profits, silencing the political speech of millions of activists who rely on the communities and organizational structures provided by tax-exempt groups.
Fortunately, the regulation was defeated, thanks in large part to FreedomWorks’ efforts to drive a record number of phone calls to the IRS in protest of the proposal. Now, they are at it again, and once more we have to be vigilant to ensure that America remains a land of free and open political discussion, without the IRS punishing groups with which it disagrees. The battle for non-profits could shape up to be one of the most pivotal fights of 2015.
Honorable Mention: The EPA’s Environmental Regs
The Environmental Protection Agency, perpetually a thorn in the side of those fighting for deregulation and economic freedom, was dealt a small blow this year when the CROmnibus spending bill included a provision to block a proposal to extend regulatory authority to ground water all over the U.S.
Unfortunately, this is a short lived victory. Like a game of Whack-a-Mole, the EPA simply pops its meddling head up elsewhere to cause problems for businesses and consumers alike. Of particular concern are three forthcoming rules that would effectively cripple the coal industry, which still provides close to a third of America’s energy. The first is the designation of coal ash as “non-hazardous waste,” which sounds benign, but actually substantially limits power plants’ abilities to dispose of their waste, and leaves the door open for a “hazardous waste” designation in the future. The price tag, unsurprisingly will be in the hundreds of millions.
An even worse regulation would require existing coal plants to cut CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030. And finally, there is the $3.4 trillion ozone regulation the administration slipped in over the holidays. The EPA seems less interested in environmental protection, and more interested in just destroying a particular industry for its own sake.
Let’s hope the new Congress has the time, energy, and steadfastness to stand up to the Obama administration in all of these fights, and protect the country from the increasing burden of costly regulations that continue to hold back our economy, not to mention our freedom.