Looking Back, But How Much Looking Ahead? Agencies Release Regulatory Agendas Months Late

by Lena Pons

July 07, 2011

The Administration has been busy promoting President Obama’s new approach to regulatory review, which required federal regulatory agencies to produce plans for how they would review existing regulations and look for regulations to cut. But while the mad dash to find regulations the administration can trot out as misguided or outdated continued, the agencies were delayed in releasing plans about what they want to do proactively to protect workers, children, and the environment.

As our friend Celeste Monforton over at The Pump Handle pointed out a couple of weeks ago, advocates have been waiting on these plans for quite some time. The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to submit the agendas each April and October. Monforton said OMB told her to expect the plans in early July. And so the new agenda was published today.

The agencies’ regulatory plans give advocates, business, and everyone else a window into the agencies’ work, and help groups plan in advance for how to respond to upcoming rules. But the most recent public regulatory plans are from December 2010. That plan was also late, and previous ones have been, too. They’re not usually this late, though. Spring plans have been released in late April or early May for the last six years. Fall plans have been released in November and December over the same period.

The agencies are being asked to do more (including the look-backs) with the same (or less). In January, Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said the Administration did not plan to seek a new appropriation for the agencies to conduct the look-back work. Pressed on the issue by the Huffington Post, he simply said that he "can't think of anything that's not been done because of the review."

We’ll have an analysis of the agencies’ plans soon. President Obama’s 21st century regulatory program ought to move us to the future, not have us living in the past.

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