Tuesday, June 6, 2017

AGs Ask Trump to End 'Federal Overreach' From Agencies

Posted By on Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 2:06 PM

click to enlarge Tennessee AG Herbert Slatery
  • Tennessee AG Herbert Slatery
Attorneys general from 16 states (including Tennessee) asked President Donald Trump to help end federal overreach “rules, regulations, and other administrative actions, which, in our view, lack a legal basis.”

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery signed onto a letter Tuesday already signed by 16 attorneys general. That letter, dated May 17, says “for too long, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, the rules, interpretations, circulars, bulletins, guidance documents, even blog posts, of federal agencies have been treated as law.” But they aren’t law, the attorneys argue.

As a result, business owners and citizens “live in a state of constant uncertainty” not knowing when a new rule may change “their legal and financial obligations.” This also concentrates power at the federal level, the letter says.

“Federal agencies were created to administer the law,” Slatery said in a statement Tuesday. “In too many instances they have tried to make law, to legislate, through guidance letters and the like.

“When steps like these are taken, the voice of the people, through their elected representatives, is not heard. And that is a problem, a constitutional problem, which we want the administration and Congress to address.”

The attorneys general want a new framework and have asked Trump to lead a regulatory reform effort that will, for one, restore the lawmaking role of Congress and the power of the federal courts.

Specifically, the letter asks Trump to disallow federal agencies to enforce “rules interpretations, guidance documents, bulletins, circulars, or any other administrative statement or action of any type or form in federal court.”

Also under the proposed guidelines, federal courts would judge the meaning of federal law, “rather than deferring to the agency’s reading of the law.

“In this way, the lawmaking power would return to where it belongs—Congress—and the judiciary would reemerge as an independent adjudicator of lawsuits between the federal government and the people,” the letter reads.

The group also wants to force federal agencies to bring enforcement actions into Article III courts, which include the U.S. Supreme Court, the 13 U.S. courts of appeal, and others. Current law, the letter says, allows federal agencies to bring enforcement actions against private individuals in front of in-house, administrative law judges.

“The vast bulk of administrative law judges are involved in the distribution of privileges or benefits,” the letter says. “Only a small portion of the total number of (administrative law judges) actually adjudicate legal obligations.”

The letter says that regulatory overreach is “the root cause of virtually all of their past and ongoing litigation against the federal government.

Slatery’s signed onto the letter with attorneys general from Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.”

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