Federal regulations affect nearly all aspects of our lives. Regulations.gov is the place where most of these rules, along with their supporting materials, are stored and publicly accessible.
This fall, ACUS is working on a project to identify improvements to Regulations.gov so that people can more easily find rulemaking materials and track the lifecycle of a rule. It is currently difficult for people to do so, due to problems generated by Regulations.gov’s unique structure. Agencies are responsible for their own submissions to Regulations.gov and for appropriately categorizing and indexing these materials. Due to inconsistent practices among agencies with respect to basic docketing conventions, such as whether one or more e-dockets is used for a single rulemaking and what labels are used for rulemaking materials, it is difficult to consistently and reliably find rulemaking materials on Regulations.gov.
Last week, the Committee on Regulation met to discuss a set of proposed recommendations to improve the ability of the public to search for and find rulemaking materials and to better track the lifecycle of a rule on Regulations.gov. These proposed recommendations include encouraging various offices, such as the Office of the Federal Register and the Regulatory Information Services Center, to share rulemaking data with Regulations.gov more effectively; suggesting that agencies receive prompts that alert them to any e-dockets that do not have supporting and related materials; and making Regulations.gov’s publicly available data as open and accessible as possible to commercial search engines.
Should the Assembly approve these and the other proposed recommendations, we will work with the Regulations.gov team to implement them. Effective implementation will eventually allow people to better be able to find rulemaking materials and track the lifecycle of a rule on Regulations.gov. Transparency and public participation in the rulemaking process, both principles that underlie the Administrative Procedure Act, demand nothing less.