In July 2017, the Trump Administration announced a change to the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (commonly known simply as the “Unified Agenda”) that accords with a recent ACUS recommendation. This change creates greater transparency in the rulemaking process.
The Unified Agenda is the U.S. government’s main vehicle for notifying the public of upcoming federal rules. It is a joint enterprise of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the Regulatory Information Service Center (RISC) within the General Services Administration, and individual agencies working on rules. Publishing upcoming rules in the Unified Agenda satisfies requirements of both the Regulatory Flexibility Act and Executive Order 12866.
The Unified Agenda categorizes agency rulemaking into five stages: prerule, proposed rule, final rule, long-term action, and completed action. In addition, in recent years RISC maintained what was effectively a sixth category – called “pending” – that was not visible to the public. During this time, several agencies placed certain regulatory actions that they had begun working on but that had sat dormant for an extended period of time (informally termed “old and cold rules”) in this “pending” category. Entries in this undisclosed “pending” category were viewable to government reviewers of the Unified Agenda, but were not visible to the public.
ACUS issued a report in 2015 calling attention to the practice of categorizing some rules as “pending” and recommended (Recommendation 2015-1) that the “pending” category be included in the published Unified Agenda so that the public can view these rules. At a July 20, 2017 White House press briefing, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney announced that all rules, regardless of how long they have been sitting, will now be included in the published Unified Agenda.
The website for the Unified Agenda has been updated accordingly. It now states that “agencies will post and make public their list of ‘inactive’ rules-providing notice to the public of regulations still being reviewed or considered.” Additionally, a “2017 Inactive Actions” hyperlink has been added that allows the public to view all inactive rulemaking actions, organized by Regulation Identifier Number (RIN). ACUS applauds this policy change, which we believe creates greater transparency in the rulemaking process.