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Texas Law Review




This Note examines recent legislative proposals for reform of the Chevron doctrine' in federal administrative law and suggests an alternative solution that sets more definite boundaries delineating the roles of courts, agencies, and the public in questions of statutory interpretation. Part I of this Note provides background information on the problem of determining when courts should defer to government agencies on questions of statutory construction. It asserts that past legislative proposals are a valuable resource for addressing this problem. Part II uses the various opinions in Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Communities for a Great Oregon to describe the interpretive confusion the Chevron doctrine has generated and the disagreement it has provoked among Supreme Court Justices and in the lower courts. Part III describes four major versions of Senate Bill 343 the 1995 Senate regulatory reform legislation, and examines how similar statutory modifications to the Chevron two-step review process would affect agencies and reviewing courts. Part IV combines elements of the specific proposals made in Senate Bill 343 in an attempt to improve on the existing Chevron doctrine by setting up a new framework for when a high level of deference to agency statutory interpretations is appropriate. The proposed system contains the following elements: (1) a specific part of the agency rule-making record devoted to the explanation of its chosen statutory interpretation, (2) a limitation of judicial review of permissible interpretations to those contained in the record, (3) placement of the burden for presenting alternative interpretations on outside commenters to a proposed rule, (4) broad deference to agency statutory interpretations that satisfy the new procedural requirements, and (5) only prospective application of the new requirements. If removed from the strict cost-benefit analysis requirements elsewhere in Senate Bill 343, a new system for reviewing agency statutory interpretations could address public concerns about government agencies' power and discretion, yet prevent destabilization of the post-Great Society regulatory state. The next time that regulatory reform resurfaces in Congress is an opportunity to improve upon the decision-making processes of both agencies and their reviewing courts.

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University of Texas School of Law

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