Rulemaking 2.0

Some of you may be following the public dialogue prompted by President Obama’s Open Government Initiative, which was kicked off on May 21st.  Many of the topics discussed have touched on important OMB responsibilities, including oversight of the Federal regulatory process.
I was particularly interested in the blog post on improving online public participation in agency rulemaking.  That posting described the federal government’s eRulemaking Program, which seeks to make the process more accessible, participatory, and comprehensible.  A key feature of eRulemaking is, where you can find, read, and comment on proposed rules before they are finalized.  As discussed in this and other postings on the Open Government blog, is considering the use of Web 2.0 technologies to facilitate the public comment process.
With the Open Government Initiative and the Exchange — where we have suggested possible enhancements to and asked for public feedback — we are looking for new ways to utilize Web 2.0 tools and provide more convenient, public-centered ways of obtaining input.  We also recognize that Web 2.0 tools can be useful even before an agency issues a proposal.  For example, instead of driving to a public hearing organized by an agency, perhaps it will be possible to participate in an online meeting from the comfort of your own kitchen or office .  Our goal is to improve and modernize well-established legal and administrative procedures so that it is easier for members of the public to participate in the development of regulations.

To provide some historical context, let me briefly describe "Rulemaking 1.0."  The federal rulemaking process is based on a seminal law passed by Congress in 1946 — the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).  With "notice and comment rulemaking," this statute gives the public a central role in the development of regulations that affect all aspects of our lives, requiring agencies to give the public the opportunity to participate on all proposed rulemakings.  Since the APA was enacted, federal regulatory agencies have had to publish the draft text of new regulations in the Federal Register, ask for comments from the public on the proposed requirements, and respond to these comments before issuing the regulations in final form.  When it is working well, the APA makes the rulemaking process both more participatory and more transparent — and makes regulation much better.
Admittedly, the full promise of the APA public comment requirement has not been achieved, as most Americans do not regularly peruse the Federal Register, looking for rules on which to comment.  This is why we are hard at work on Regulations 2.0, a new and better rulemaking process for the 21st Century.  By engaging the public in web-based tools that are now commonplace in our lives, more people can participate in the rulemaking process and government can learn more from them when considering new regulations.  Ultimately, this will make regulations more beneficial and less costly to society.

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