Senators aim to require the government to put information concerning regulation on the Internet.
Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs leaders have introduced legislation to improve public access to information about federal government regulations. On November 17, Committee Chair Joseph Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-Me.) introduced the E-Rulemaking Act of 2010 (S. 3961) to “establish a framework for governing, managing and funding the next stage of the e-rulemaking program.”
The federal government’s e-rulemaking program makes information about new government regulations available via Regulations.gov, a website that also allows the public to submit comments on regulatory proposals. Launched during the Bush Administration, the e-rulemaking program operates through the cooperation of a broad consortium of regulatory agencies, led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency but without dedicated appropriations or centralized control over data consistency.
The Lieberman-Collins bill seeks to improve e-rulemaking by establishing a central Program Management Office (PMO) overseen by an Interagency E-Rulemaking Committee. The committee would be “co-chaired by the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the Administrator of the Office of Electronic Government” and would include “senior officials knowledgeable about rulemaking practices” from a variety of agencies. It would oversee the e-rulemaking program’s daily operations, help establish the PMO, find solutions to e-rulemaking needs, and work with agencies to standardize their online resources.
The Lieberman-Collins bill would replace the fee-for-service funding model for Regulations.gov with an authorization of $11 million annually through at least 2015. It also would establish a Public E-Rulemaking Advisory Committee comprising outside regulatory or technology experts. The bill calls for the advisory committee, the PMO, and the interagency committee to collaborate to improve the e-rulemaking systems architecture.
Senators Lieberman and Collins call attention to how the “lack of adequate data standardization for key data practices makes it difficult for agencies and the public to fully benefit from a Governmentwide rulemaking database.” Their bill aims to make all federal government rulemaking information accessible in a single searchable database, both by requiring agencies to standardize their rulemaking data and enabling a flexible system that can accommodate diverse rulemaking practices.
The E-Rulemaking Act of 2010 responds to needs first identified by Penn Law Professor Cary Coglianese, the director of the Penn Program on Regulation, in a series of recommendations for improving data consistency and search capability that were endorsed in 2004 by more than fifty regulatory scholars. Indeed, many of the changes the Lieberman-Collins bill would make are virtually identical to those proposed in 2008 by a blue-ribbon ABA panel on which Professor Coglianese served, as outlined in the report, Achieving the Potential: The Future of Federal e-Rulemaking.