Web may help rule-making process

FCW's DotGov Thursday column suggests that an agency could use its Web site to help it through the regulatory process

Federal Webmasters looking to offer additional services should consider

making their agency's World Wide Web site a virtual environment for conducting

the rule-making process.

With some creative thought, Webmasters can facilitate an agency's rule-making

process via a combination of intranet and Internet solutions. Posting documents

and e-mails can help build better relationships with the affinity groups

the agency works with. These methods also can ensure better-quality work

by providing ways to incorporate more points of view.

One caution: Care must be taken in handling e-mail responses to a proposed

regulation. Servers have become clogged when hundreds of thousands of e-mail

responses have flooded in. To ease this problem, it's helpful to group e-mail

into categories, or the public can be prompted to respond to a range of

choices.

Following is a summary of the rule-making process.

* First, the agency must identify the need for regulatory change. Is this

a new area to be addressed or is it an existing area that needs updating?

I can't emphasize enough that at the beginning of the regulation process,

you need to determine the following: What you want to do, why you want to

do it and the intended impact of the new or changed regulation. If you can't

do that, you will become involved in a fairly long and complicated process

that probably won't be too successful.

* Write the content of the regulation in plain language. To the extent possible,

collaborate with selected users on the contents of these documents.

* Know or make sure someone in your organization knows the applicability

of the following orders and laws: — Administrative Procedures Act (5 U.S.C. : 551 et seq.; especially see 553 Executive Order 12866).

* The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. : 3501 et seq.).

* The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (5 U.S.C. : 601).

* The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (Pub. L.

104-121).

* Send the proposed regulation through the internal agency clearance process,

which almost always includes the agency's general counsel almost. Obtain

the signature of the senior official who has responsibility to sign proposed

regulations.

* If the proposed regulation is considered to be a significant regulatory

action under Executive Order 12866, it will need to be reviewed by the Office

of Management and Budget. OMB has up to 90 days to review it.

* Finally, publish the proposed regulation in the Federal Register to get

comments from anybody that reads the notice of proposed rule-making, if

required. This part of the process usually lasts for 60 days.

* Consider comments received before producing a final version of the interim

rule or a final rule. It may be that after reading the comments, you decide

not to proceed further with the regulation.

* After reconciling the comments and making any changes as needed, send

the final rule back through the internal agency clearance process. Again,

the agency general counsel is usually always part of the final review process.

Resolve any content issues that develop.

* Obtain signature of agency head. Publish the final regulation in the Federal

Register.

NEXT STORY: Litronic to secure DOD e-mail

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