Press Release

Rep. Cuellar Helps Pass Bill Increasing Certainty for Businesses and Local Communities through Unfunded Mandate Reform

Washington | Olya Voytovich, DC Press Secretary (202-226-1583); Leslie Martinez, District Press Secretary (956-286-6007), July 16, 2018
WASHINGTON— Last week, Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) helped pass H.R. 50, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2017, in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill will benefit rural underserved communities and small businesses through unfunded mandate reform. An unfunded mandate is a statue or regulation that requires a state or local government or private business to perform certain actions, with no compensatory funding to fulfill such requirement.

This bill represents a significant improvement on the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA), passed by Congress in 1995. This legislation was designed to prevent the federal government from imposing unfunded mandates onto state and local governments or private businesses without policymakers or the public knowing the costs of such policies.

Before promulgating a final rule, UMRA requires agencies to undertake an assessment of the anticipated costs and benefits of a federal mandate. For rules costing over $100 million, UMRA requires the agency to identify and consider a reasonable number of regulatory alternatives and select the least costly, most cost-effective, or least burdensome alternative that achieves the rule's objectives.
In practice, however, agencies oftentimes proceed through the regulatory process in a way that allows them to avoid UMRA's requirements. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that many statues and final rules containing significant unfunded mandates were enacted without being identified as federal mandates above UMRA's thresholds. Additionally, businesses currently have no recourse if agencies do not live up to UMRA's requirements.

After hearing from many bipartisan groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Council of State Governments, the International City/County Management Association, the National Association of Counties, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Governors Association, the National League of Cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors about these issues, Reps. Cuellar and Virginia Foxx introduced H.R. 50. The bill would close many of UMRA's loopholes by requiring that agencies consult with the private sector when considering new rules and regulations, and providing judicial review of agency application of UMRA.
Congressman Cuellar's district has a number of rural, underserved communities that need as many resources as they can get. Imposing unfunded mandates on these kinds of communities makes it even more difficult for hardworking Americans to access basic needs, such as water infrastructure, sanitary water, and adequate living conditions.

Additionally, H.R. 50's requirement that federal agencies consult with the private sector when issuing regulations benefits business owners. As a former small business owner, Congressman Cuellar understands the challenges of opening and operating a business. Unfunded mandates on businesses mean higher costs for entrepreneurs, making it more difficult for them run their business, which means blunted economic growth for the communities that need it the most, like many in Texas.

"During my time in the Texas State Legislature, I introduced and passed the state’s first unfunded mandate reform bill. That’s why I co-sponsored this bill, which restores a commonsense framework that will provide clarity to small businesses and local governments and allow workers and entrepreneurs to freely pursue their dreams,” said Congressman Cuellar.

“Bottom line, this bill will create more certainty for our nation’s businesses to invest in the future and allow more Americans to achieve the dream of businesses ownership. I encourage my colleagues from both parties to support local communities and small businesses by supporting this legislation. I thank Chairwoman Foxx for introducing this measure with me, and I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure its passage.”

Watch video of the Congressman Speaking on the House Floor here.

Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) speaks on the U.S. House of Representatives Floor in Washington last Friday.