Lawmakers respond to IRS email scandal with new regulations

Friday - 7/25/2014, 3:39pm EDT

By Ariel Levin-Waldman
Special to Federal News Radio

House lawmakers approved yet another bill in reaction to one of several ongoing debacles surrounding digital correspondence.

The Federal Records Accountability Act would make each agency's lead records management official responsible for complying with the Records Act, including reporting missing or destroyed records to the archivist and to the public. It also would require any official business done on personal email accounts sent to an official government account to be logged. The committee said this would apply to instant messaging and texting as well.

The committee approved The Federal Record Accountability Act Thursday, and passed a bill to reduce regulatory burdens.

The records bill forces agencies to fire any employee that intentionally and maliciously destroys federal records. The bill is a response to the IRS losing records essential to an investigation around former executive Lois Lerner. Lerner said her computer crashed in 2011, losing the documents.

"Records can be lost due to ignorance, inattention, intentional malice but we should not tolerate any of these excuses," said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the bill's sponsor. "But the intentional destruction, and I repeat, intentional destruction of records in particular is a criminal act and the federal employees found to have committed such an act should be fired."

The second bill would create a commission to strike down regulations that impose costs or burdens on the economy.

The committee passed the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome Act. The SCRUB Act would establish a presidentially appointed retrospective regulatory review commission. The commission would be responsible for finding regulations that are obsolete, outdated, costly or burdensome.

"This is not a new or partisan concept," said Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.). "In fact, in 1978 a gentleman from my home state, President Jimmy Carter issued an executive order requiring agencies to periodically review their existing regulations to determine whether they are achieving the policy goals."

Regulations found by the commission would be designated for immediate repeal or put through a "cut-go" process, where agencies would be mandated to cut an existing regulation before imposing a new regulation with similar costs. Agencies would be required to implement the commission's recommendations if they are approved by a joint resolution of Congress. The goal is to reduce the costs of federal regulations by at least 15 percent.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the committee, said the bill grants the proposed commission too much power and can cut into regulations for public safety. Cummings proposed an amendment to exempt any regulation related to national security, environment, economy, and the safety of children, senior citizens, members of the armed forces or veterans.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said it was too broad and would gut the entire bill. The amendment did not pass.

Ariel Levin-Waldman is an intern with Federal News Radio

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