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Listen Up for Better Regulatory Participation

ARSA encourages members to participate in the rulemaking process and it appears the government is trying to ensure public understanding and involvement. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is a watchdog of sorts for the executive branch agencies. It will host a public Listening Session on “Public Participation in the Regulatory Process” on March 7, 2023 from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. EST.

OIRA Administrator, Richard Revesz, will offer opening remarks and several agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency, will share their current efforts to expand public engagement in the regulatory process. OIRA will open the floor to participants to share ideas and feedback on how federal agencies can better engage the public in all stages of drafting and implementing regulations.

OIRA is collecting ideas and feedback on its recommendations and “learnings” produced in previous listening sessions. To review and provide input, visit www.whitehouse.gov/omb/information-regulatory-affairs/broadening-public-engagement-in-the-federal-regulatory-process/. To review ARSA’s engagement in the effort last November, review the content below.

Even if you can’t listen in on the March 7th session, you may provide feedback on the Summary of Learnings and Recommendations by reviewing them and providing information on the following questions:

  • Which of the recommendations would most effectively broaden public engagement in the Federal regulatory process, especially from members of underserved communities and those who do not typically participate in the regulatory process? Are there recommendations that are not helpful?
  • Are there obstacles or barriers to greater public participation, especially for underserved communities, that are not addressed by these recommendations? If so, are there other recommendations that we should consider?
  • Are there existing materials, such as guides or tools, that would be especially effective in revising and potentially implementing these recommendations? What new tools or guidance are needed?
  • How can intermediaries—such as trade associations or coalitions—be helpful in reaching individuals and small organizations or businesses, where have they been successful in doing so, and where might they be insufficient?

Interested members of the public can submit their feedback to publicparticipation@omb.eop.gov as written feedback or recorded audio and video submissions. OIRA will be actively reviewing any submissions received through 5:00 p.m. EST March 10, 2023.

Previous updates on OIRA/OMB public engagement...

11/17/22 - OIRA Building Next Open Government Action Plan

November 17, 2022

UPDATE: On Dec. 2, OMB released a summary of public feedback gathered during its engagement sessions. Click here to view the summary.

On Nov. 17, ARSA Vice President of Operations Brett Levanto joined an engagement session hosted by the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) soliciting input on improving participation in the regulatory process.

This session is part of the American federal government’s ongoing initiative to “open” government to better public engagement and participation. OIRA gathered input as part of its drafting a new Open Government National Action Plan, which the Biden administration intends to focus on building a more equitable, transparent, and accountable government. The plan will be the sixth since the program was first established in 2009 – each plan covers a two-year period, the current one ends in 2024 – and will include commitments related to public engagement in the work of government.

Speaking participants covered a broad range of regulated entities, including stakeholders from healthcare and small business interests as well as thinktanks and nonprofits focused on improving government openness or training the public in regulatory comprehension. General feedback considered regulatory engagement strategy, particularly encouraging agency to find new ways to connect with the segments of the public most likely to be impacted by a rulemaking action and do so as early in the process as possible. Specific notes included instruction on the use of resources like regulations.gov to find rulemaking documents and submit comments.

Two participants made points familiar to ARSA members dealing with the FAA:

(1) Rulemaking matters, but so does enforcement…perhaps more so. It does not matter what the Code of Federal Regulations says if the government doesn’t reasonably execute on its plain language.

(2) Agencies don’t regularly seem interested in collecting public comment but see it as a “necessary evil.” The procedures or mechanics of collecting feedback and input depend on the regulator’s capacity for action.

The discussion was held under the Chatham House Rule, which protects open exchange by preventing direct quotation or identification of speakers but allows participants to share general themes or points shared by participants. Interestingly, one speaker questioned the practice by calling it ironic to host a “closed meeting” in pursuit of open government.

ARSA members interested in learning more about the effort can go to open.usa.gov and should contact Levanto with questions or ideas.



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