Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (02/05/2015)

Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015

This bill amends the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA) and the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Act of 1996 (SBREFA) to revise and expand the rulemaking requirements and procedures of federal agencies (excluding Congress, U.S. courts, U.S. territories and possessions, and the District of Columbia) that affect small entities.

(Sec. 2) RFA is amended to adopt the broader definition of "rule" set forth in the Administrative Procedure Act, but excludes from such definition: (1) rules that pertain to the protection of veterans' rights and benefits and to consumer credit extended to service members and dependents, or (2) rules of particular (and not general) applicability relating to rates, wages, and other financial indicators. The concept of "economic impact" is added to RFA to require agencies to consider any direct economic effect of a proposed rule on small entities and any indirect economic effect on such entities that is reasonably foreseeable and that results from such rule.

The applicability of RFA is expanded to cover: (1) rules that have a beneficial significant economic impact on small entities, (2) rules that affect Tribal organizations, (3) land management plans developed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, and (4) certain collection-of-information and record keeping activities of the Internal Revenue Service.

The definition of "small organization" under RFA is revised to mean any not-for-profit enterprise, including a local labor organization, with a net worth not exceeding $7 million and with no more than 500 employees.

(Sec. 3) Each agency is required to: (1) include in its regulatory agenda (published in the Federal Register every April and October) a brief description of the sector of the North American Industrial Classification System that is primarily affected by a proposed or promulgated rule that is likely to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, and (2) prominently display a plain language summary of the information in the regulatory agenda on its website.

(Sec. 4) RFA requirements relating to an initial regulatory flexibility analysis are expanded to require an analysis to contain a detailed statement (instead of merely a statement) of information relating to a proposed rule. The analysis must include an estimate of the additional cumulative impact of the proposed rule on small entities, a description of any disproportionate economic impact on small entities or a specific class of small entities, and a description of any impairment of the ability of small entities to have access to credit.

A final regulatory flexibility analysis must include a detailed description of any disproportionate economic impact on small entities or a specific class of small entities.

The standard for measuring the economic impact of a proposed rule on small entities is enhanced to require a quantifiable or numerical description of the effects of a proposed or final rule on such entities.

(Sec. 5) The authority of an agency to waive or delay the completion of regulatory flexibility analyses is eliminated.

The Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA) is given expanded authority to issue, modify, or amend rules governing agency compliance with RFA requirements and to intervene in agency adjudications.

(Sec. 6) RFA procedures for the participation of small entities in the promulgation of a proposed rule are modified to require the rulemaking agency to: (1) notify the SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy, and (2) provide the Chief Counsel with all materials prepared or utilized by the agency in making the proposed rule and with information on the potential adverse and beneficial economic impacts of the rule on small entities.

The Chief Counsel is specifically charged with: (1) convening a review panel with representation from the SBA Office of Advocacy, the agency making the rule, and the Office of Management and Budget; and (2) reporting to the rulemaking agency on the economic impact of the proposed rule on small entities with respect to energy and startup costs and on alternatives that will minimize adverse or maximize beneficial economic impacts on small entities.

The Chief Counsel is empowered to waive the review panel requirements if they are deemed impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.

(Sec. 7) RFA requirements for periodic review of rules affecting small entities are expanded to require: (1) mandatory review of all rules that have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities; (2) a detailed statement on how an agency will conduct outreach activities to include small businesses, including those owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically-disadvantaged individuals; (3) annual agency reports on the results of its review of rules; and (4) annual publication in the Federal Register and on the agency website of a list of rules to be reviewed, with a solicitation of public comments.

(Sec. 8) Judicial review under RFA is expedited to allow an individual who is aggrieved by an agency rule to initiate judicial review of agency compliance with RFA without waiting for final agency action on such rule.

(Sec. 9) Exclusive jurisdiction is granted to the U.S. Court of Appeals to review challenges by small entities to rules promulgated by the SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy for implementing RFA.

(Sec. 10) The Small Business Act is amended to: (1) authorize the SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy to specify size standards for small business concerns for purposes of any enactment other than the Small Business Act or the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, and (2) permit a party who seeks judicial review of a small business size determination approved by the SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy to join the Chief Counsel as a party in an action for such review.

(Sec. 12) SBREFA is amended to require agencies, in developing small entity compliance guides, to solicit input from affected small entities or associations of small entities.

(Sec. 13) The Comptroller General must complete and publish a study that examines whether the SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy has the capacity and resources to carry out duties under this Act.