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					                            A Brief Introduction to Federal Rulemaking

You have the chance to help develop federal regulations. Let your voice be heard by learning
about the regulation development process – commonly called rulemaking. This fact sheet
provides the basics.

Federal Regulations are Important
Federal agencies write laws called regulations or rules. When Congress writes a statute and the
President signs it, it usually doesn’t have enough detail for it to be put into effect. So, federal
agencies fill in the details by issuing regulations.

For example, the Cash for Clunkers program, which helped many people trade-in their gas-
guzzlers for more fuel efficient cars, was created by Title XIII of a supplemental appropriation
statute signed into law in June 2009. 1 Title XIII contained the basic structure of the CARS
program. Congress then directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop
and issue a rule that provided a detailed structure of the program, including what cars qualify for
the program and how to distribute the rebates.2

Federal Regulations Affect Every American
Regulations have a direct impact on your life and the life of every American citizen:
    The price of the coffee you drink in the morning is affected by regulations written by the
       Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The television shows you watch are regulated
       by the Federal Communication Commission. The quality of the air you breathe is
       affected by regulations written by the Environmental Protection Agency.
    Regulations have the power of law. Breaking them can result in fines and even jail time.
    Regulations outnumber Congressional statutes. For every statute passed by Congress and
       signed into law by the President, federal agencies create about 10 regulations, each of
       which have the force of law.3

Let Your Voice Be Heard: Participate in Rulemaking
In order to develop a regulation, federal agencies follow processes established by Congress in
1946 under the Administrative Procedure Act.4 While the processes vary from agency to agency,
the most common technique for creating regulations (known as the “informal rulemaking
process” or “notice-and-comment rulemaking”) involves the four basic steps outlined in the next
section. You have opportunities to participate in all four steps, most notably during the public
comment period. .


1
  Title XIII – Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Program, Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009, Pub.
L. no. 111-32, 123 Stat 1859 (2009). See p. 1909 - 1915. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-
111publ32/pdf/PLAW-111publ32.pdf.
2
  Requirements and Procedures for Consumer Assistance To Recycle and Save Program, Final Rule, 74 FR 38974-
38985 (August 5, 2009) (to be codified in 49 CFR Part 599). See
http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#documentDetail?R=0900006480a0169b.
3
  Kerwin, Cornelius M., The Management of Regulation Development: Out of the Shadows (Washington, DC: IBM
Center for the Business of Government, 2007), p. 6.
http://www.businessofgovernment.org/publications/grant_reports/details/index.asp?GID=288.
4
  See http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/laws/administrative-procedure/.


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The Informal Rulemaking Process
Agencies that follow the informal rulemaking process generally follow these steps:
 1. Pre-proposal – When an agency decides that a problem or issue cannot be addressed
     without a regulation, the agency starts the rulemaking process. Rulemaking begins with an
     analysis of the issue or problem; analysis includes scientific, economic, and technical
     research. As the agency learns about the problem, possible solutions begin to emerge. In
     many cases, agency staff will host public meetings, or conduct other outreach, so you can
     provide insights into the problem and offer your own solutions. These public meetings
     may be announced in the Federal Register (an official publication for rules, notices, and
     important documents from federal agencies and organizations, as well as the President) or
     through other informal means (email, websites, blogs, etc.).

       As solutions to the issue or problem are formulated, the agency begins drafting a regulation
       that puts the solutions into action. The draft regulation is reviewed by a number of federal
       experts. Also, agency staff may hold public meetings during this period, or consult with
       groups formed under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA),5 to gather ideas about
       how to write the regulation.

    2. Proposal Publication and Public Comment – As we noted in the pre-proposal stage, your
       concerns, needs, and values can be incorporated in governmental decisions in a variety of
       ways including public meetings and hearings, advisory committees, interactive workshops,
       interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups. But the most common way to provide your
       thoughts to the agency is to provide comments in response to a document in the Federal
       Register seeking public comment on a draft regulation. Generally, the agency will solicit
       public comments for somewhere between 30 and 90 days. You can comment on all federal
       regulations via Regulations.gov, http://www.regulations.gov/.

    3. Final Regulation – When the public comment period ends, the agency reviews and
       evaluates all the comments received. Depending on the regulation, comments may range
       from recommendations for minimal change to extensive rewriting. The agency carefully
       weighs and evaluates the comments before developing a final regulation. All public
       comments and the agency’s responses are posted in the regulation's docket on
       Regulations.gov. A hard copy may be available in the agency’s public reading room.

Suggested Reading
    “How We Write Regulations: An Online Brochure” by the Environmental Protection
      Agency. See http://www.epa.gov/lawsregs/brochure/.
    “The Information Rulemaking Process” by the Department of Transportation. See
      http://regs.dot.gov/informalruleprocess.htm#What%20is%20rulemaking.
    The Management of Regulation Development: Out of the Shadows by Cornelius M.
      Kerwin, Ph.D. See a rulemaking map on pp. 14-15:
      http://www.businessofgovernment.org/publications/grant_reports/details/index.asp?GID=
      288.


5
 Read about FACA here:
http://www.gsa.gov/Portal/gsa/ep/contentView.do?contentType=GSA_OVERVIEW&contentId=9673.


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