How to Read the Unified Agenda
The Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, more commonly know as the Unified Agenda, is a semiannual publication of all the regulatory actions federal agencies are considering. Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review, requires agencies prepare such an agenda in order to improve coordination among divisions of the federal government and to notify the public of upcoming actions.
The Unified Agenda is sectioned by Cabinet level department and independent agency. Agencies further divide actions by subagency and place actions into one of five stages: prerule, proposed rule, final rule, completed action, or long-term action.
Each Unified Agenda entry contains the following information:
RIN: The RIN, or regulation identification number, is a unique alphanumeric code assigned to all actions published in the Unified Agenda to assist in identifying rules throughout their life cycle.
Title: Agencies title rules published in the Unified Agenda. Titles may change over time, making the RIN the most accurate way to identify a rule.
Abstract: In the abstract, the agency gives a summary of the purpose and intention of the rulemaking or agency action. The final or proposed rule published in the Federal Register will generally provide more substantive details on a rulemaking than what is provided in the Unified Agenda.
Priority: In developing a rule, an agency determines the significance of the pending regulation. Rules that are "Economically Significant" have an annual effect of at least $100 million. "Other Significant" regulations are those that are considered to have substantial impact on the public interest. Agencies may also designate rules as "Substantive/Nonsignificant" or "Routine and Frequent." These rules will be reviewed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) under the authority of E.O. 12866. OIRA can change the priority of a regulation if it disagrees with the agency designation.
Major: OIRA and agencies determine whether a rule is "major." Rules that are "economically significant" (and therefore require an accompanying RIA) and rules that are "significant" but for which OMB requires the preparation of an RIA are collectively known as "major" rules.
Unfunded Mandates: Under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, before an agency can publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or a rule that could result in expenditures by state, local, and tribal governments or by the private sector of more than $100 million in a year, agencies must assess the anticipated costs and benefits of the federal mandate.
CFR Citation: The CFR citation refers to the parts of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) that will be modified by the rulemaking. The CFR is an annual codification of all general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government.
Legal Authority: The legal authority indicates the sections of the United States Code that give the agency the authority to proceed with the rulemaking.
Legal Deadline: Some agency actions have a legal deadline either imposed in the authorizing legislation passed by Congress or through court order.
Timetable: The timetable associated with each rule or other agency activity will indicate what actions have occurred, with the relevant Federal Register citations, and it will also list projected deadlines for next steps such as public meetings and rulemaking notices. Agencies, however, frequently do not uphold the deadlines posted in the Unified Agenda.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies proposing rules that would have a "significant" economic impact on small business, small not-for-profit organizations, or small governmental entities must prepare a Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (RFA) and analyze whether there are simpler, less burdensome ways for such small organizations to comply with federal requirements.
Government Levels Affected: Under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and Executive Order 13132, agencies must determine whether a regulatory action will impact federal, state, local, and/or tribal governments.
Small Entities Affected: Agencies determine whether a regulatory action will impact small businesses, small governmental jurisdictions, or other small organizations. If the agency determines small entities will be affected, it does not necessarily have to prepare a Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (see above).
Federalism: Under Executive Order 13132, agencies (except independent agencies) must determine whether a regulatory action will affect the distribution of power between the federal government and state and/or local governments.
Agency Contact: E.O. 12866 requires the Unified Agenda include an agency contact for each entry.
Included in the Regulatory Plan: E.O. 12866 also requires each agency to prepare a Regulatory Plan of the "most significant regulatory actions" the agency anticipates pursuing. The Plan is included in the fall publication of the Unified Agenda.
The Plan is more focused than the Unified Agenda. Whereas the Unified Agenda is to include "all regulations under development or review," the Plan includes only "significant" regulations. Significant regulations are pared even further so that only the most important are included in the Plan. Additional requirements associated with each rule in the Plan include a statement of need and may include a summary of legal basis, alternatives to the proposed regulation, anticipated costs and benefits, and risks. If the agency has included the action in the Regulatory Plan, the additional information will be listed in the Unified Agenda entry.
Until 2007, the Unified Agenda was published in the Federal Register. Since then, RegInfo.gov, a project of the General Services Administration and the White House Office of Management and Budget, houses the Unified Agenda electronically. Visit RegInfo.gov's Unified Agenda page to search for actions in the Unified Agenda or to browse actions by agency.