White House Tries to Ease Tracking of Rules
by Matthew Madia
Apr 7, 2010
In an effort to increase transparency and expand public participation in the rulemaking process, White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein issued a memo today encouraging agencies to consistently use Regulation Identifier Numbers, or RINs, to tag documents.
Currently, agencies assign a RIN to every rulemaking, and the RIN appears in the proposed and final rules published in the Federal Register. The RIN is also attached to information on RegInfo.gov, the site detailing information about OIRA’s reviews of agency regulations. But in many cases, the RIN does not appear on other critical documents like supporting analyses. In some cases, as a rulemaking evolves, an agency may choose to change the RIN, confusing efforts to track a rulemaking across its lifetime.
The Sunstein memo, issued in conjunction with the Obama administration’s Open Government Plans, should help to solve these issues. From the memo:
The RIN should be used on documents including, but not limited to, notices of proposed rulemaking, final rules, and (to the extent that they are associated with a rulemaking) notices, guidances, environmental impact statements, regulatory impact analyses, information collections, and supporting materials. The RIN should be carried throughout the process, including in the metadata/text when documents are published in the Federal Register and on Regulations.gov.
More consistent use of RINs should facilitate understanding of the rulemaking process. If agencies successfully designate all relevant documents with the RIN, users will have confidence that the document they are viewing does or does not relate to a rule of interest to them.
While this is a positive development, the RIN issue is a relatively small one. OIRA needs to lead the charge in bringing transformative change to e-rulemaking.
The biggest question that remains in my mind relates to online management and availability: What about documents that are not currently included on Regulations.gov? (Regulations.gov is the online public portal for finding rulemaking documents and commenting on proposed regulations.) It is good to establish common tags, but documents need to be grouped together as well, not just allowed to float separately in the vast waters of the web.
Agencies should improve disclosure of regulatory information by including the full scope of information in their online rulemaking dockets housed on Regulations.gov. Currently, agencies disclose varying levels of information. Agencies like the EPA may disclose all studies that a regulation cites as well as many internal communications about the rulemaking, while other agencies may only post the rules themselves and the public comments filed on those rules.
The online rulemaking dockets need to match the hard-copy dockets kept in agency offices, in my opinion. While caveats do exist (such as exemptions for documents related to national security or confidential business information) synchronization ought to be the guiding principle. The Sunstein memo misses an opportunity to begin moving in that direction.back to Blog