FAQs & FYIs
Will Citizens Comment address and explain every federal proposal to eliminate or alter existing regulations?
No, we will only address deregulatory proposals by federal agencies within the Executive Branch (that is, the various federal Departments, Bureaus, Administrations, Agencies, Commissions, and the like, that have authority to issue legally binding regulations), which are subject to the Notice and Comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. This means that some deregulatory actions will be outside our scope, such as repeals of relatively recent “Obama-era” regulations that can be accomplished (under a separate statute) by Congress and the President.
Are there any other criteria that will be applied to decide what deregulatory matters will be included on the Citizens Comment website?
Yes, we intend to confine our focus to regulatory matters that have the potential to significantly impact health and safety, quality of life, education, the environment, or financial well-being. Assessing the significance of impact will necessarily have some element of judgment; but we will attempt to exercise that judgment based on information published by the Government in making its proposals, along with information we can acquire from subject-matter-experts in other credible organizations. If, due to the number, nature, and complexity of deregulatory proposals that are made (combined with our own staff limitations) we find that we are forced to pick and choose even more extensively about what to cover in detail on this website, we will try to flag other proposals with at least sufficient information to enable those who are interested to make further inquiries and look into the matters more extensively on their own.
How will Citizens Comment determine what facts to present in its descriptions of regulatory proposals, and what qualifies as a fact?
Unless otherwise identified as coming from a different source, we will take facts from government sources, generally from facts as stated by the government agency proposing regulatory (or deregulatory) action in its Federal Register Notice. If we present any other factual claims, we will identify the source, and provide a link or citation so that the reader can – if he or she wishes – check the source and make his or her own judgment as to the credibility of the factual claim.
Is there any difference between a “rule” and a “regulation”?
This is a complicated question because – while the terms are often used interchangeably, both in the law and in common parlance – there are also circumstances in which a distinction may be made. A “rule” is defined for purposes of the Administrative Procedure Act as :
“the whole or a part of an agency statement of general or particular applicability and future effect designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy or describing the organization, procedure, or practice requirements of an agency and includes the approval or prescription for the future of rates, wages, corporate or financial structures or reorganizations thereof, prices, facilities, appliances, services or allowances therefor or of valuations, costs, or accounting, or practices bearing on any of the foregoing.” On this website, the word “rule” is used consistent with this definition (and therefore does not refer to, for example, directives or limitations that might be set forth in statutes or Executive Orders of the President). Similarly, we use the term ”regulation” to refer to a rule of legally binding effect that is issued by a federal agency in the Executive branch of Government and is published in the Code of Federal Regulations. Generally, the Notice and Comment provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act apply to formulation, amendment, or repeal of these kinds of rules, and it is with the repeal or alteration of such rules that Citizens Comment is concerned.
We recognize that there are other contexts in which the word “rule” is commonly used to refer to directives or limitations established by entities other than federal Executive agencies, and that issuances other than federal agency rules may have the effect of regulating certain types of activity. For the sake of as much clarity and simplicity as possible in an inherently complicated area, however, we will use the words “rule” and “regulation” here as explained above, consistent with their Administrative Procedure Act usage.
Do I have a right to comment on every federal rule and regulation, or repeal of a rule or regulation, before it becomes final?
No, Notice and Comment requirements do not apply in a number of circumstances in which federal rules or regulations can be issued or rescinded. These include rules that represent general statements of policy, rather than binding standards, rules of internal Executive agency procedure, and rules that merely interpret what a statutory term means, rather than implement a statute by filling in gaps in its substance,. Also, some rules can be established, and later rescinded, by Executive Order; or can be rescinded by Congress Under the Executive Review Act (which pertains relatively recently finalized regulations, like those issued during the last 6 months of the Obama Administration). In addition, there are situations in which an urgent need for immediately effective regulation can justify issuance of regulations (called “interim final” regulations) that are effective and binding immediately upon publication in proposed form and during the period for Public Comment, even though they may be subject to revision later, after comments from the public are received and considered.
Why doesn’t Citizens Comment provide templates for commenting on targeted regulatory actions, or at least sample comments, in order to make it easier for users of this site to draft and send comments to the Government?
We considered doing so, and decided against it for several reasons, among them that we do not want to tell anybody what to think or what views to form. In addition, while we would be pleased if the information furnished on this website resulted in the submission of very large numbers of comments to the Government on important deregulatory proposals, flooding government agencies with enormous numbers of identical comments would be of limited utility. The purpose of public comment solicitation and submission is to assure government consideration of all factors relevant to its decision making in regulatory matters. It is not – as the Government’s own website emphasizes – to achieve the functional equivalent of a vote. When a government agency receives a great number of essentially verbatim or “form” comments, it is likely to discount those comments as having been the product of one entity or organization orchestrating the activity of a group of people and influencing them to repetitively transmit the organization’s views under the guise of views from independent individuals. In fact, we have heard that some federal agencies (fully cognizant of the practice of many organizations and interest groups of urging their members to submit comments based on templates drafted by the organizations themselves) now use software to scan the comments received from the public and effectively pull out and disregard those that use substantially identical language. Citizens Comment hopes to educate a greatly expanded segment of the public about deregulatory matters and proposals, and about how to have their voices heard by Government in regard to those matters – not in any way to dictate what views should be expressed, or in what words.