1999 Scorecard Vote
In 1995, Congress passed the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, which requires the Congressional Budget Office to report to government and the private sector the costs of complying with directives contained in new legislative proposals. The law also allows members of Congress to raise a procedural hurdle--a point of order--on bills that cost state and local governments more than $50 million to comply.
This point of order currently does not apply when costs are borne by the private sector. However, the Mandates Information Act (H.R. 350), sponsored by Representative Gary Condit (D-CA), would expand on the existing law by establishing a new point of order against legislation that imposes costs of more than $100 million on business. The bill would create a legislative procedure allowing members of Congress to prevent important new health and safety protections from coming to a vote.
The Mandates Information Act focuses exclusively on costs, but environmentalists believe that certain costs are not easily quantified, such as the extermination of a species or the costs of reducing the risks of birth defects and premature deaths. Nor does the bill consider whether the affected companies benefited financially from creating the pollution in the first place. This new hurdle could impede important legislation such as proposals to expand the public's right to know about toxins in their communities or efforts to address pollution in lakes or rivers.
The federal mandates on the private sector that H.R. 350 targets include:
- requirements that companies generating hazardous waste pay the costs of disposal;
- requirements that companies discarding waste in lakes and streams reduce the toxic and cancer-causing chemicals they release; and
- requirements that meat packers ensure that the meat they sell is not contaminated with deadly bacteria.
The point of order established by the Mandates Information Act would limit debate on new health and safety protections to 10 minutes per side, impeding full consideration of any given bill's benefits. While the point of order could be waived by a simple-majority vote, such a vote would also allow members to block important protections without voting directly against them.
In response to the bill, Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) offered an amendment that would remove the separate vote on the point of order. It would also add 20 minutes to the amount of time provided for debate. On February 10, 1999, the House rejected the Boehlert amendment 210–216. YES is the pro-environment vote.
On February 10, 1999, the House passed the Mandates Information Act by a vote of 274–149. NO is the pro-environment vote.