The main statutory function of ACUS is to bring together the public and private sectors to recommend improvements to administrative and regulatory processes. To do so, ACUS’s Office of the Chairman, with the approval of ACUS’s Council, engages consultants to study particular administrative processes or procedures that may need improvement. Consultants then prepare a comprehensive research report accompanied by suggested recommendations. Occasionally, ACUS staff members prepare these reports in-house. After extensive deliberation, committees of ACUS’s voting and non-voting members adopt proposed recommendations for Council consideration. The Council then forwards the recommendations, with its views, to the Assembly. The Assembly typically meets semi-annually in plenary session to debate, amend, and formally adopt the recommendations. ACUS then undertakes to implement them. 

ACUS Recommendation Process

On occasion, the Conference membership has acted to adopt a “Statement” to express its views on a particular matter without making a formal recommendation on the subject.  Conference statements are typically the product of the same process that leads to recommendations, but may set forth issues, conclusions from a study, or comments, rather than recommendations.  During the Conference’s history, it has adopted 19 such statements, which are included in the searchable database of recommendations.

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Consumer Complaint Databases


Some federal agencies maintain records of consumer complaints and feedback on products and services offered by private entities.  Taking advantage of recent technological developments, several agencies have recently begun to make such information available to the public through online searchable databases and downloadable data sets that contain complaint narratives or provide aggregate data about complaints.  Examples of such online...

Aggregate Agency Adjudication


Federal agencies in the United States adjudicate hundreds of thousands of cases each year—more than the federal courts.  Unlike federal and state courts, federal agencies have generally avoided aggregation tools that could resolve large groups of claims more efficiently.  Consequently, in a wide variety of cases, agencies risk wasting resources in repetitive adjudication, reaching inconsistent outcomes for the same kinds of claims,...

Promoting Accuracy and Transparency in the Unified Agenda


The Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (typically known simply as the “Unified Regulatory Agenda” or “Unified Agenda”) is an important mechanism by which federal agencies inform the public of upcoming rules.  Required to be published on a semiannual basis, the Unified Agenda represents a joint enterprise of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the Regulatory Information Service Center (...

Technical Assistance by Federal Agencies in the Legislative Process


Federal agencies play a significant role in the legislative process.[1]  While agencies can be the primary drafters of the statutes they administer, it is more common for agencies to respond to Congressional requests to provide technical assistance in statutory drafting.  Despite the extent of agency involvement in drafting legislation, the precise nature of the interactions between agencies and Congress in the drafting process...

Declaratory Orders


Providing clarity and certainty is an enduring challenge of administrative governance, particularly in the regulatory context.  Sometimes statutes and regulations fail to provide sufficient clarity with regard to their applicability to a particular project or transaction.  In such instances, businesses and individuals may be unable or unwilling to act, and the consequences for the economy, society, and technological progress can be...

Federal Licensing and Permitting

  • Recommendation number: 2015-4
  • Adopted on: December 4, 2015
  • Committees: Regulation
  • Tags: Licensing

Regulatory permits are ubiquitous in modern society, and each year dozens of federal agencies administering their regulatory permit authority issue tens of thousands of permits covering a broad and diverse range of actions.[1] The APA includes the term “permit” in its definition of “license.” In addition to agency permits, the APA defines licenses to include “the whole or part of an agency…certificate, approval, registration,...

Statement # 19: Issue Exhaustion in Preenforcement Judicial Review of Administrative Rulemaking


The doctrine of issue exhaustion generally bars a litigant challenging agency action from raising issues in court that were not raised first with the agency.  Although the doctrine originated in the context of agency adjudication, it has been extended to judicial review of challenges to agency rulemakings.  Scholars have observed that issue exhaustion cases “conspicuously lack discussion of whether, when, why, or how [the issue]...

Resolving FOIA Disputes Through Targeted ADR Strategies


The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)[1] makes available to any person, upon request, any reasonably described agency record that is not exempt under nine specified categories.  Congress has stated: “disclosure, not secrecy, is the dominant objective of the Act.”[2]  FOIA provides a two-level agency process for decisions on requests for access to agency records: (1) an initial determination that is ordinarily made by the component...

Government in the Sunshine Act


In the late 1960s and 1970s, in the wake of increasing public vigilance concerning the activities of government sparked by the Vietnam War and Watergate, Congress passed and the President signed a series of transparency laws designed to promote greater accountability and transparency in government decisionmaking.  The Government in the Sunshine Act, enacted in 1976, focused specifically on the transparency of meetings of multi-...

Guidance in the Rulemaking Process


Over the past two decades, the use of guidance—nonbinding statements of interpretation, policy, and advice about implementation—by administrative agencies has prompted significant interest from Congress, executive branch officials, agency officials, and commentators. Most of this attention has been directed to “guidance documents,” freestanding, nonbinding statements of policy and interpretation issued by agencies. While such...