DOT Asserts More Control Over Regulatory Traffic
The Department of Transportation is among the most active regulatory agencies (exceeded only by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture in number of regulations issued each year). It tends to be at the vanguard of regulatory practice, having been an early mover in e-rulemaking—sharing information and soliciting public comment online, and it conducts quite rigorous retrospective review of its regulations. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Department is poised to publish a final rule on “Administrative Rulemaking, Guidance, and Enforcement Procedures.”
A window into internal rulemaking procedures
The rule codifies procedures laid out a year ago in a departmental order that itself had replaced earlier procedural orders issued in 1970 and 1980. The preamble says the new rule provides “a comprehensive set of procedures that will increase transparency, provide for more robust public participation, and strengthen the overall quality and fairness of the Department’s administrative actions.”
Indeed, the rule does provide a window that agencies rarely offer into their internal procedures for issuing and evaluating regulations. It lays out which Department officials are responsible for different aspects of rulemaking, including assigning to the Deputy Secretary the role of Regulatory Reform Officer established by President Trump in 2017 as well as the long-standing role for Regulatory Policy Officer established by President Clinton in 1993. It describes in detail the steps, analysis, and reviews required to issue a regulation, from initiation, through intra-agency coordination, to final approval and review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget.