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GUEST COLUMN: Woodall on protecting Forsyth County schools, American jobs
Rep
Rob Woodall. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

About Rob Woodall

Rob Woodall is the U.S. represenative for the 7th Congressional District, which covers south Forsyth and much of Gwinnett County. He is the chairman of the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process and serves on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and on the Budget Committee.

To contact him, go to https://woodall.house.gov/.

Over the last eight years, the number of flawed, burdensome, or ineffective federal rules and regulations inflicted on the American people has grown at a rapid pace with the Federal Register (the daily journal that contains new regulatory guidance and information) reaching all-time page-count highs. The last eight years produced six of the top seven most aggressive rule-making years on record, and as 2016 came to a close, the Obama Administration added to that number with an avalanche of new mandates in the days and weeks before leaving office.

Energy, education, healthcare — and the list goes on — have all been hit with a flood of federal red tape and intervention that could charitably have been intended for good, but as has so often been the case, didn’t live up to the promises. With a new President and Congress, we are looking at the rules implemented by the Obama Administration in a hurried, last-minute fashion — rules that provide burden rather than benefit, rules that expressly violate statutes passed by Congress, and more — and we are repealing them.

Just in the last two weeks, Congress has used its authority through the Congressional Review Act (CRA) — a tool that unfortunately limits Congress’ ability to review rules to those that have been promulgated most recently — to rescind multiple regulations that simply do not live up to their billing. We’ve also passed the REINS Act (Regulations in Need of Scrutiny) to expand the authority to ensure that bills passed by Congress are implemented faithfully by the President and Administration. At their core, the CRA and the REINS Act are tools to ensure that the President — any President — doesn’t substitute his personal agenda for the collaborative one approved by Congress and signed into law.

As each new rule in Washington is crafted and pitched to the American public, it’s common practice to assign it a benevolent name and hear high praise from its supporters, but when those same rules are wreaking havoc on an entire industry without actually offering the kind of protection they promised, we can — and must — do better for the American people. There’s no shortage of regulations to tackle, but we’ve started with the most obvious.

In any given industry or region of the country, different regulatory burdens have a larger impact than others. In coal country, the so-called “Stream Protection Rule” tightened the political stranglehold on mining communities that already have stringent regulations and environmental protections in place. The rule didn’t protect streams, but it absolutely would have put even more miners in the unemployment lines. In western states with thousands of jobs relying on the oil and natural gas industry, the Bureau of Land Management’s new methane rule was another crushing blow that was redundant in the ostensible environmental protection it offered. Again, the rule didn’t protect air quality, but it would have severely restricted energy exploration in America.

Right here at home, where we have a Forsyth County School System that has produced the highest graduation rate in metro-Atlanta, the highest ACT scores in the state, and the highest SAT scores of any large school district in the state, the “Accountability and State Plan Regulation” put Washington — rather than local educators — in charge of student success despite the fact that Congress and the American people rejected that approach just over a year ago with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Signed into law in December 2015, ESSA successfully moved decision-making authority back home to states and school districts where it belongs, but this midnight rule from the departing Obama Administration was intended to reinstate the top-down standards.

Specifically, this regulation would give the federal Department of Education immense power over accountability programs that must be used here at home, consequently limiting our ability to create unique plans — which here in the Seventh District are working better than in most places in the country — and goes against the very principles and bipartisanship of the ESSA.

Yet another one of these last-minute regulations is the “Teacher Preparation Regulation,” which again sounds well-intended. After all, who doesn’t want teachers to be prepared? The problem, however, is a familiar one. It expands federal authority and ties the hands of states and school districts working to implement systems that will be effective in their respective communities. We all put the highest priority on a thriving education system with prepared educators, but if we create a top-down process in Washington, D.C., and get it wrong, the entire country suffers. If a local school district is in need of improvements, it has the option of looking to places like Forsyth County for inspiration.

These federal regulations would in fact jeopardize Forsyth County’s success, not enable it, and that principle applies to regions, states, and communities across the country in need of regulatory relief.

Irrespective of industry or economic sector, sensible and effective regulation is vital to ensure the appropriate protections are in place for the American people, but sadly, at the federal level it has become a tool with which to quickly impose political will. That is not our Founders intent, nor is it good for America. Even well-meaning federal regulations have a tremendous capacity to stifle innovation, not to mention assume authority from the individual and the community. What I know from the success of the Seventh District is that accountability, growth, and responsible stewardship of all our resources doesn’t come from Washington. These are our shared values, and we are at our best when we have the flexibility to put them on full display.