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What is a Regulatory Impact Analysis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A regulatory impact analysis (RIA) is a formal study of the potential results of a piece of legislation. Regulatory agencies and interested parties conduct such studies before legislation takes effect to see if the law will function as intended. In some regions, the government requires this process before regulators and law enforcement can begin implementing new laws, while in others, it may be recommended.

In a regulatory impact analysis, the costs and benefits of the law are subject to evaluation. For something like an environmental regulation, a regulatory agency could provide information about how much it will cost to implement and enforce, from requiring companies to use new equipment to paying for government compliance audits. This information is presented alongside data about the benefits, like cleaner air and improved sanitation. If the costs appear to outweigh the benefits, the RIA may conclude that the legislation will not perform like people want it to.

When people develop legislation, they rely on a number of resources to help design the best approach. These can include analysis to identify problems and the most potentially cost effective solutions. The regulatory impact analysis drills deeper, looking at how a finished product will perform when it takes effect. It can sometimes be difficult to predict certain aspects of performance, as some pitfalls may not become apparent until after the fact.

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A large team of people can be involved in this process. They can include regulators, government agents, and experts in the field who can provide consulting services. The process may take weeks, months, or years. In the final regulatory impact analysis, people can also discuss different approaches to enforcement and enactment, comparing and contrasting various options to help the government decide on the best course of action. This may include recommendations for the mechanics of setting a law in motion to make sure it will be as effective as possible.

This information is available to members of the public. People who want to know more about a specific law can request documentation to learn more about the process that went into developing the law and the conclusions of the regulatory impact analysis. This information can be helpful for people who want to challenge a law, whether they want to argue it is ineffective, too restrictive, or too costly to implement, among many other things. Members of the public can also comment at many stages of the process if they have thoughts they want to share with the government.

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