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Obama nixes uniform street, traffic control signs

By Jim Kuhnhenn
?Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is changing or eliminating a handful of regulations — from uniform street sign requirements to outdated hospital reporting rules — that it says could have cost the economy $6 billion over five years, part of a regulatory overhaul that will require agencies to periodically scrub their rule books in search of unnecessary mandates.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order Thursday that will force federal agencies to scrutinize old rules to determine which ones are justified and to issue regular reports on their progress.

“Smart rules can save lives and keep us safe, but there are some regulations that don’t make sense and cost too much,” Obama said. “We will remain vigilant when it comes to eliminating regulations that are not necessary or that impose unnecessary burdens on America’s families and businesses.”

As a step in that effort, the White House is announcing the repeal of five rules that it says will save local governments, health care providers, railroads and gas stations a total of $6 billion between now and 2017. Last year, the White House identified several other rules for elimination.

The savings identified by the administration benefit the institutions and industries affected by the regulations. They do not represent savings in government spending.

Administration officials said they expected the changes and Obama’s executive order mandating regular reviews to hearten the business community, which has complained that the federal government has put an undue burden on them through regulations.

The changes so far, however, are small compared with what business groups such as the U.S, Chamber of Commerce are demanding, especially in environmental requirements and workplace rules.

Obama called for federal agencies to conduct a one-time review of their existing regulations last year after his party suffered sweeping losses in the 2010 elections. At the time Obama conceded that his relationship with the business community had soured, and he vowed to scrap “dumb” rules that were hindering private sector growth.

The president’s Council of Economic Advisers, in a report Thursday, says agencies already have identified more than 500 possible changes. The executive order will make those reviews a regular and recurring function of federal agencies.

Among the five finalized rule changes, some of the biggest saving come in changes that do away with unnecessary reporting requirements by hospitals that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Another change would put off a requirement on state and local governments to design more uniform street and traffic control signs. Administration officials said many local governments complained that the requirement could them precious money at a time of tight budgets.

In one change that might be familiar to many car owners, the Environmental Protection Agency is eliminating a mandate that some states require vapor control devices on gas nozzles at gasoline stations. The officials said the rule was set in 1990 before many vehicles required built-in pollution controls.

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