Conference to advise agencies on e-rulemaking

Independent federal agency offers proposals on reading, reviewing and flagging online comments

Federal agencies using electronic rulemaking should consider using content analysis software to organize and review public comments submitted online, according to a proposed recommendation from the Administrative Conference of the United States set to be voted on in a session held June 16 and 17.

The conference is an independent federal agency charged with making nonbinding recommendations to improve agencies’ administrative procedures, typically through applying science and consensus building.

The agency is considering more than a dozen proposals for its upcoming voting session, including advice on e-rulemaking, public comment collection, video teleconferencing and contractor ethics.


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Regarding e-rulemaking, the conference suggests that agencies take advantage of specialized software to help categorize and evaluate public comments.

Agencies should “consider whether, in light of their comment volume, they could save substantial time and effort by using reliable comment analysis software to organize and review public comments,” the conference states in its e-rulemaking recommendations.

The software would help identify whether public comments were identical, or nearly identical, to other comments submitted. In those cases, agencies are not required to have a person review each of those identical comments, the conference added.

The conference also is considering proposals to allow the public to flag potentially inappropriate comments submitted on e-rulemaking dockets, and to allow commenters to indicate whether their comments include confidential information or trade secrets.

All "physical objects" submitted by the public as part of the official comment period also would be documented electronically with a "descriptive entry or photograph," the proposal states.

The conference also is considering recommending that agencies publish a document explaining what types of comments are most beneficial and listing best practices for submitting comments.

The agency also will review a proposal suggesting that federal offices consider greater use of videoconferencing, along with a proposal that the Federal Acquisition Council develop model language for federal contracts that could be at risk from contractors’ personal conflicts of interest.


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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