Patricia A. O'Malley

Social Policy & Programs Consulting

Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice


You Can Influence Government Regulations
The Republicans are governing by fantasy.
June 13, 2017







 
On January 30, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13771, requiring all federal government agencies to eliminate two prior regulations for each new regulation adopted.  This is a dangerous, irresponsible, and ludicrous stunt. 

Corporations want to eliminate all government regulations, yet they don’t hesitate to use and exploit every benefit that our civilized society can offer them. Regulations don’t just happen. There is a process and you can influence it.

Classical economists, American corporations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the republithugs  whiiiiiine incessantly that every government regulation strangles business productivity, making it impossible to generate profits.  They know this stuff isn’t true. They don’t believe it.  They want you to believe it.  They even want you to believe that government agencies have stolen the constitutional right of Congress to make laws.

Legal Basis
Our regulations do limit the behavior of businesses.  They also limit government and personal actions.  And we do need them.  This is how they happen.

Civilized human beings live in organized societies, in close proximity.  
Can you imagine 22 men on a football field, running around in chaos, playing a game with no rules?  Now imagine the league eliminating two random rules for each new one they adopt.  How stupid is that?  But our “leaders” believe that chaos is a good idea.

We all have a duty to respect one another’s rights and spaces.  The guiding principle of freedom says that my rights end where yours begin.  In order to live together peaceably, we make rules for our behavior, our institutions, and ourselves.  When government is involved, we call those rules regulations.

According to the U.S. Constitution, Congress – the Legislative Branch of government – has all law-making authority.  Once passed, a law is called a statute.  Federal statutes are usually very complex and technical creatures.  The U.S. Code contains every federal law currently in force, organized by subject matter.  The statutes rarely contain enough detail to cover every possible combination of situations that they are supposed to address.  

The statutes instruct the relevant Executive Branch agency to develop regulations to implement the laws.  The President leads the Executive Branch, which includes all Cabinet Departments and administrative offices.  The more complicated a law is, the more it is likely to instruct an agency to develop regulations to implement it.

For example, the Constitution’s Article I and Sixteenth Amendment give Congress the authority to impose income taxes.  Countless statutes instruct the Internal Revenue Service to create regulations to implement them.  That’s where we get the 1040, the rest of the forms, and all tax reporting procedures.  The 1946 National School Lunch Act created a program that reimburses schools for lunches served to students, and thus, the free school lunch program.  It requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate nutritional standards for those meals.  The Environmental Protection Agency manages regulations regarding pollution and our environment.  The Occupational Health and Safety Administration manages regulations on those topics.

The Regulatory Process
The Code of Federal Regulations contains all of the rules associated with those laws.  It covers such topics as

  • government administration, taxes, and elections
  • domestic security, immigration and customs, and foreign relations
  • agriculture, environment, and transportation
  • public assistance programs, education, the U.S. Postal Service, and banking.


The republithugs want you to believe that “the government” invents those rules out of thin air, without any opportunity for any public input at all. That is an absolute lie. There is a process and you can influence it.

Once the president signs a new law, the appropriate agency staff members draft the necessary regulations. Regulations must adhere to the laws.  They cannot change the intent or effect of the laws on which they are based.  The department managers, including the cabinet secretary, review the draft, suggest improvements, and eventually accept the final draft version.  This can take anywhere from a month to a year, depending on the complexity and urgency of the subject matter.  When necessary, the Cabinet secretaries consult with the president.

Public Input
This is where you come in. Every new regulation is published in the Federal Register, a daily record of all executive branch actions. Some very basic regulations are published in final form right away.  Most are published as proposed regulations.  The public is invited, encouraged, and welcome to submit comments on those proposals.  Anyone can support, oppose, or suggest changes to the rules.  The Federal Register announcement includes a statement containing a deadline and address for submitting comments. The FR is published every weekday, except national holidays.

Yes, it really does work.  I’ve submitted comments on proposed regulations dozens of times.  And yes, the comments do make a difference.  The more comments a department receives, the more likely they are to adopt the recommended changes.

After the comment period ends, the department staffers read and analyze the submitted comments.  In true democratic fashion, there are meetings and memos and reports.  Eventually, the department managers decide on the final version of the regulations. That final version goes to the Federal Register for publication.  The notice includes a report on the types and nature of comments, their rationale for accepting or rejecting changes, and the effective date of the new final rules.

That’s all there is to it.

How to Submit Comments
Now, certainly no one is expert enough to comment responsibly on proposed rules in every topic.  However, if you want to submit comments in a field where you have some interest or expertise, you can go to Regulations.gov.  This site links to proposed and final regulations for nearly 300 federal agencies.   
Each agency’s website also contains a section listing current proposed comments on its topic area. 

Go to usa.gov to locate specific government agencies.

You can

  • Search for a proposed rule, final rule, or Federal Register notice
  • Submit a comment on a regulation or on another comment
  • Sign up for e-mail alerts about a specific regulation
  • Quickly access new or popular regulations


See.  You really can influence your government if you want to.
All you have to do is show up.

For more information:
Executive Order 13771
USA.gov
U.S. Code
Code of Federal Regulations
Federal Register
Regulations.gov
Read the U.S. Constitution


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Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting    ~    Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803    ~    Pittsburgh, PA  15227   ~    412-310-4886    ~    info@patomalley-consulting.com
Copyright Patricia A. O'Malley    ~    All rights reserved
Established 1993