President wants to put rulemaking and compliance activities online

Order calls for greater transparency

President Barack Obama today told agencies to modernize and increase the transparency of their regulation of industry and commerce, requiring among other things that agencies publish their rulemaking and enforcement actions on the Internet and to weed out outdated and unneeded rules.

In an executive order, Obama outlined broad goals for federal regulation, with agencies assessing costs and benefits and seeking broad participation from industry, consumers, scientists and other stakeholders at each step.

The aim is to balance the needs of safeguarding the public without unduly burdening business, Obama wrote in an editorial today in the Wall Street Journal about the order.


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“Over the past two years, the goal of my administration has been to strike the right balance. And today, I am signing an executive order that makes clear that this is the operating principle of our government,” Obama wrote. “This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth.”

He told agencies to give the public a chance to comment on new regulations on the Internet for at least 60 days. This should include timely online access to the rulemaking docket on regulations.gov, including relevant scientific and technical findings, in open and searchable formats, the order said. The same should apply for proposed rules as much as possible, it also said.

He also asked agencies to prepare plans in 120 days to periodically conduct reviews of existing regulations to determine how they can more effective and less burdensome.

In a related memo, Obama told agencies to release information on their enforcement of existing regulations, including warnings, citations, inspections and other activities.

The goal of releasing more enforcement information, as the Labor Department and Environmental Protection Agency are already doing, is to foster “fair and consistent enforcement of important regulatory obligations,” the memo stated. “Such disclosure is a critical step in encouraging the public to hold the government and regulated entities accountable.”

The order and memo also say agencies:

  • Should coordinate with each other to reduce redundant, inconsistent or overlapping regulatory requirements.
  • Should consider regulatory approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for the public as much as possible.
  • Must ensure objectivity of any scientific and technological information and processes to support its actions.
  • Should consider how to promote retrospective analysis of rules that may be outmoded ineffective, insufficient or excessively burdensome.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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