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Bill introduced to assess policies’ impact on family

WASHINGTON (BP)–A bill requiring federal government agencies to assess the impact of their policies and regulations on families has been introduced in Congress.
The Family Impact Act was introduced July 9 by Rep. Ron Lewis, R.-Ky., in response to President Clinton’s repeal of a 10-year-old executive branch policy mandating a family friendly review by federal agencies. President Reagan issued the executive order in 1987 but Clinton quietly overturned it in April.

Lewis’ bill would require agencies considering new regulations to determine whether:
— “The action strengthens or erodes the stability of the family and, particularly, the marital commitment;
— “The action strengthens or erodes the authority and rights of parents in education, nurture and supervision of their children;
— “The action helps the family perform its functions or substitutes governmental activity for the function;
— “The action increases or decreases disposable family income;
— “The proposed benefits of the action justify the financial impact on the family;
— “The action may be carried out by state or local government or by the family; and
— “The action establishes an implicit or explicitly policy — (a) concerning the status of the family; and (b) concerning the relationship between the behavior and personal responsibility of youth, and the norms of society.”
The seven guidelines for reviewing policies closely resemble those in Reagan’s executive order.
In addition to Lewis’ bill in the House of Representatives, Sen. Spencer Abraham, R.-Mich., introduced a similar measure in June and is expected to offer a new version later this month.
While Congress “cannot make strong families,” Lewis said at a July 9 news conference in the Capitol, the legislation “makes sure the family” is not harmed.
When Clinton rescinded the Reagan order, “I was stunned,” said Rep. Joe Pitts, R.-Pa., “as a father of three children, that he would turn a blind eye to the family.”
Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R.-Ark., said at the news conference, “Many of the social pathologies we deal with would be solved, would be resolved, if we were a nation of strong families. That’s the point of this legislation.”
The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has endorsed the bill.
“The measure that President Clinton revoked was an important safeguard for those who believe that our government’s policies should be consistent with traditional family values,” said Will Dodson, the ERLC’s director of government relations. “It is certainly in the best interest of traditional families that such a measure be in place.”
The legislation defines the family as “a group of individuals related by blood, marriage or adoption who live together as a single household” and “any individual who is not a member of such group, but who is related by blood, marriage or adoption to a member of such group and over half of whose support in a calendar year is received from such group.”
The bill requires the head of each agency to certify to Congress that a regulation has been assessed in accordance with the guidelines.
Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council, served as Reagan’s domestic policy adviser and drafted the 1987 executive order at the president’s request. Bauer said at the news conference he was not surprised Clinton revoked the order because he could not tell the White House was abiding by it any way. “I suspect that it was a constant irritation,” Bauer said.
The executive order’s effect primarily was to prevent “dopey ideas from every reaching the president’s desk,” Bauer said. “Nobody here thinks that this is a magic bullet.”
Something is wrong, however, when the question of a policy’s impact on the family is “not even on the radar screen,” he said.