Not convinced there might be a few too many federal regulations? Take a look up Uncle Sam’s sleeve.
Marty Hahne, a Missouri magician who performs shows for children, recently got a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The magician was told that in addition to his required license for the rabbit he pulls out of a hat, he now needs to have a written disaster plan for his bunny. (It seems that, in the eyes of the USDA, he is an animal exhibitor, like zoos and circuses, and so he must have the license, pay an annual fee and be subject to inspections.)
“Fire. Flood. Tornado. Air conditioning going out. Ice storm. Power failures.” Those were some contingencies his emergency plan should cover, Hahne told the Washington Post, which first reported on the bunny rule a couple weeks ago.
An expert who learned of the situation volunteered to write a plan for Hahne, following the letter of the new regs. The result was a 34-page document that included an assessment that the magician’s area of Missouri had seen “over 42 tornadoes” since 1980 and details of what would be in the rabbit’s “to-go bag” should disaster hit: “extra water bottle, bowls, newspapers and trash bags.”
Another magician interviewed by the newspaper said his plan would be, well, more succinct. “I’ll take a piece of paper and put down, ‘Note: Take rabbit with you when you leave,’ ” South Carolina magician Gary Maurer said.
Animal rights groups had pushed for the rules, saying many animals were abandoned during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This new rule was issued in December 2012 under a law dating to the 1960s for regulating treatment of lab animals. Subsequent amendments “extended coverage to animals in commerce, exhibition, teaching, testing and research,” the USDA explains.
Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee, rightly described the USDA sticking its hand into the magician’s top hat as a clear example of regulatory overreach.
“If this story wasn’t on the front page of the newspaper, I would have thought it was a joke,” Graves said. “Congress gives regulators an inch and they take a mile. The result is poorly thought out, unnecessary regulations that unduly burden small businesses.”
Congress writes the laws, but agency bureaucrats write the rules for carrying them out. Some are sensible and clearly necessary for the public good. Some require disaster plans for one-rabbit magic shows. That’s how red tape is made.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the number of new final federal rules published annually averages from 2,500 to 4,500. At the end of 2011, the Office of Management and Budget reported, federal regulations totaled 169,301 pages — more than double the 71,244 pages in 1975. A study commissioned by the Small Business Administration estimated that the cost of complying with all federal regulations was $1.7 trillion in 2008.
But abracadabra! The Agriculture Department this week said its new regulation was being put on hold for further analysis. Hours after the Washington Post’s report on the rabbit disaster plan appeared, a USDA spokeswoman said, “Secretary (Tom) Vilsack asked that this be reviewed immediately and common sense be applied.”
Now that would be magical, indeed.