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Utahns in Congress Target "Regulatory Overreach"

"Regulatory overreach” has become a kind of rallying cry in conservative political circles, and now three Utahns in Congress are proposing new legislation Thursday that they say is aimed bringing federal powers back into balance. 

Supporters say the proposed “Separation of Powers Restoration Act” would rein in agencies and correct a current guideline that makes judges defer to agencies when it comes to interpreting federal regulations.

“In practice, these loose limits give agencies the power to rewrite laws and regulations however they want,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The bill would also cure what supporters call “congressional under-reach.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Congress hasn’t been doing all it should to make the law of the land, leaving too much discretion to the courts or unelected bureaucrats.

“As hardworking, well-intentioned, well-educated and highly specialized as they might be, the men and women who work within our executive branch agencies don’t work for you,” Lee said at the Heritage forum on what’s known as “the Chevron Doctrine” in law. “You cannot fire them.”

And Lee said that’s a recipe for tyranny.

Andy Hessick, a University of Utah law professor, agrees the changes the lawmakers are considering could have a big impact on everyday life.

“We would see it,” he said. “There would be significant change in how the courts would interact with agencies.  It would be changes in what things the EPA could regulate, for example, or what things the FDA cold regulate.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is an original cosponsor of the House version of the bill.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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