Sofie E. Miller
On the Friday before Thanksgiving, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and Budget released its biannual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. The Unified Agenda, which is typically published once in the spring and once in the fall, provides the public with a first glimpse at upcoming regulations and, in a perfect world, offers citizens the chance to become involved in the rulemaking process before agencies make major decisions final.
The Fall 2014 Unified Agenda identifies 3,415 regulatory actions at different stages of development. Of these, 629 have recently been completed, and 465 are long-term. The Agenda classifies the remaining 2,321 as active regulatory actions. The table below further categorizes the actions according to economic significance (using two definitions with overlapping but not identical meanings) and whether the action has been published in a previous Agenda.
Interestingly, of the 599 regulatory actions listed in the Agenda for the very first time, over 40 percent are listed as Final or Completed rules, of which 11 were economically significant. This means the public didn't get notice of the rules in the Unified Agenda until it was too late to participate in the rulemaking process, even for rules that would incur more than $100 million annually in costs or benefits.
This finding is consistent with our analysis of the Spring 2013 Unified Agenda, indicating a troubling pattern of lack of agency notice that could inhibit public participation. The fact that more than 40 percent of all first-time listed regulatory actions were already finalized or completed means that the public wasn't given appropriate notice of regulators' intentions, and likely had little chance to participate in the rulemaking process.
*In 2012, OMB released a single Unified Agenda for the entire year rather than two separate agendas.
So, what can the regulated public expect in the near future? According to a search of the current Agenda, regulatory agencies plan to promulgate 1,231 proposed rules, along with 988 final rules and 102 pre-rules. Figure 2 above compares these findings with those of the past six Agendas, showing less overall projected regulation in most categories (proposed rules and final rules).