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In August 2002, President Bush signed an executive order called "Proper Consideration of Small Entities in Agency Rulemaking," which enhanced the office's RFA mandate. The order directs federal agencies to implement written procedures and policies for measuring their regulatory proposals' economic impacts on small entities. It also requires agencies to notify the office of draft rules that are expected to have a significant economic impact on a large number of small entities. Agencies also must consider the office's comments and publish a response to its comments in the Federal Register. Finally, the order requires the office to give periodic notification and training to all federal agencies on how to comply with the RFA.
Advocacy and RESPA reform
The Office of Advocacy's involvement in HUD's effort to reform RESPA is demonstrative of its mission. HUD issued a proposed rule to reform RESPA in July 2002, the intent of which was to simplify, improve and lower the costs of getting home mortgages. The office was concerned about the potential economic impact of RESPA changes on small businesses such as mortgage brokerages.
The office submitted comments expressing its concerns in October 2002. Its primary concern was that HUD did not fully analyze and publish the impacts that the proposed RESPA reforms would have on specific segments of the small-business community (such analysis is required under the RFA). Its comments reflected information garnered from industry representatives at roundtables and other meetings.
Members of Congress, consumer groups and real estate industry groups, such as the National Association of Mortgage Brokers (NAMB), also expressed concerns about the rule's potential impact. Throughout the regulatory process, advocacy-office representatives attended meetings with small-business groups such as NAMB to ensure that small-business concerns were heard, in addition to those of consumer groups and larger businesses.
In March 2004, HUD withdrew the RESPA rule from review. In the withdrawal letter to the Office of Management and Budget, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson stated that based on concerns from members of Congress and key members of consumer and industry groups, he believed that "it would be prudent for HUD to re-examine the RESPA rule before it [was] made final."
He stated his intent to repropose the rule after meeting with affected consumer and industry groups, as well as briefing members of Congress. In response, the advocacy office wrote Jackson strongly supporting HUD's decision to re-examine the RESPA rule, to meet with industry groups and to seek public comment on a new proposed rule. It also offered to work with HUD when the rulemaking was revisited.
This past June, HUD announced its plan to consider updating its RESPA regulations and to develop modern mortgage rules to regulate how U.S. consumers buy and refinance homes. HUD held a number of roundtables in Washington, D.C.
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