Terminology

Key terms and definitions:

Economically significant rules are regulations issued by executive branch agencies that meet the following definition in Executive Order 12866: “Have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities.”

Significant rules (which include economically significant rules) are those regulations that meet one or more of the following definitions in Executive Order 12866: “create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency; materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof; or raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President’s priorities, or the principles set forth in [Executive Order 12866].”

The Congressional Review Act defines a major rule as “one that has resulted in or is likely to result in (1) an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; (2) a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, federal, state, or local government agencies, or geographic regions; or (3) significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, or innovation, or on the ability of United States-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises in domestic and export markets.”

Full-time equivalents (FTEs) refer to employment levels and staffing. According to OMB's "Budget Concepts" (PDF) documentation, "Agency FTEs are the measure of total hours worked by an agency’s Federal employees divided by the total number of one person’s compensable work hours in a fiscal year."

Outlays refer to actual spending by the government during a fiscal year. They are expenditures made by the government to pay obligations, which are recorded in the fiscal year the payment is made. According to 2 U.S. Code § 622, "The terms “budget outlays” and “outlays” mean, with respect to any fiscal year, expenditures and net lending of funds under budget authority during such year." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities differentiates the two ways to define government budgets: "Budget authority is how much money Congress allows a federal agency to commit to spend; outlays are how much money actually flows out of the federal Treasury in a given year." In other words, outlays may liquidate obligations that are incurred in previous years and/or may be authorized by previous years' budget authority. For a fuller explanation, see the "Budget Concepts" (PDF) chapter in OMB's Analytical Perspectives, which is released annually as a component of the President's Budget.

A presidential year begins on February 1st and concludes on January 31st. Various scholars have empirically verified that the final months of presidential administrations (including January) are accompanied by a substantial increase in regulatory output by executive branch agencies. A presidential year starting in February avoids attributing an outgoing president’s regulatory output in January to the president's successor—allowing for a better understanding of priorities and activities of agencies under different administrations. Additionally, the lengthy procedural requirements necessary to finalize regulatory actions make it unlikely that regulatory output from January 20th (Inauguration day) through the end of the month is related to the incoming administration.

The Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions is a semiannual compilation of information about regulations under development by federal agencies, published in the spring and fall. Executive Order (EO) 12866 "Regulatory Planning and Review" and Office of Management and Budget memoranda implementing Section 4 of that Order establish minimum standards for agencies' agendas, including specific types of information for each entry.

A proposed rule, or notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) is a document that an agency uses to explain its plans to address a problem or accomplish a goal. All proposed rules must be published in the Federal Register to notify the public and to give them an opportunity to submit comments.

A final rule is a federal administrative regulation that advanced through the proposed rule and public comment stages of the rulemaking process and is published in the Federal Register with a scheduled effective date.

After an agency researches the issues and determines the necessity of a new rule, it proposes a regulation, also known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM includes such information as the preamble, deadline for comments, how and where to file comments, and people to contact for information about the proposal.

An Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) is a document that an agency may choose to issue before it is ready to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). It may also be called a "notice of intent" or simply a "request for comments." The ANPRM is used by an agency as a vehicle for obtaining public participation in the formulation of a regulatory change before the agency has done significant research or investigation on its own.