January 3, 2012 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 6Comment

When an organization fails to get the little things right, I have difficulty believing they are competent to get the big things right either. That’s the way I feel about the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

OIRA is part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), was created by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, and is charged with reviewing certain proposed federal regulations and approving agencies’ requests to collect data from the public. One of OIRA’s responsibilities, as outlined in the 1993 Executive Order (EO) 12866, is coordinating the publication of the Administration’s Regulatory Plan for the upcoming fiscal year. This document is supposed to be published in October to facilitate regulatory planning by affected parties and to make the rulemaking process more accessible to the public.

October 2011 is long gone, as is November and December, but the Obama Administration’s regulatory czar has yet to publish the Regulatory Plan. When I asked OMB’s press office on December 30 when OIRA expects to issue the document, no one with information about the plan was at work that day. The Obama Administration’s reg czar is now the first in history to miss not only the October deadline, but to fail to publish altogether in a calendar year its Regulatory Plan.

Since the time EO 12866 was issued in 1993, 18 annual Regulatory Plans have been published. The Clinton Administration met the October deadline twice, and published the remaining six of its eight plans in November. The GW Bush Administration’s regulatory czar only met the October deadline once, publishing six of its eight plans in December, and one in November. The Obama Administration is two-for-two missing the October deadline, publishing its 2009 and 2010 regulatory plans on December 7 and December 20, respectively.

As the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) reminds us, missing deadlines is not the only example of mismanagment and overreach by OIRA. In a March 2010 letter to the White House Counsel’s office, CPR scholars provide example after example of OIRA’s violations of its authority. These include OIRA’s failure to make public all documents exchanged between itself and agencies during its review of propsed rules and insisting on reviewing and approving of agency guidance documents and other materials not covered by EO 12866. I’ve written about OIRA’s failure to follow its own rules for disclosing the meetings it’s hosted with private interests about proposed agency rules.

Admininstration officials, including the OIRA director Cass Sunstein, say they have been transforming the federal regulatory system. They insist their reforms emphasize transparency, predictability and certainty. It’s difficult to see how that jives with OIRA’s performance, including the simple task of meeting the deadline for publishing an annual Regulatory Plan.

6 thoughts on “White House regulatory czar fails to publish rulemaking plan and agenda

  1. No new regulations is a good thing. Obama is only interested in getting re-elected. He does not care about anything else right now. Another phony liberal in office. Nothing will get done until after the elections. A great politician he is but a mediocre to poor administrator. It is clear that Mr. Sunstein has his orders. No regs until after the elections.

  2. Didn’t a major Mercury regulation just come out? How quickly we forget.

    As for the Agenda, it has long been a work of fiction. Agencies list what they would love to do according to unrealistic timelines. Would that it weren’t that way but few tears should be shed at a delay in its publication. I wouldn’t see its delay as evidence of anything.

  3. It may indeed be a work of fiction and if so, let’s get rid of it and the semi-annual reg agendas as well. Even at the smallest agencies, significant staff time is devoted preparing these documents, having meetings with agency chiefs about them, getting approval up the chain of command for revised text (and target dates), loading into the special software system etc., etc. After they are published, the Administration will hold webcasts to “discuss them” with canned answered prepared to respond to questions from the public.

  4. Agreed. It would be an interesting study (maybe I’ll do it one day!) to see what percentage of what is published in the Agenda is eventually promulgated and the accuracy of the timeframes.

  5. I’ll contribute the OSHA and MSHA section. I have that data going back to 1993 đŸ™‚

    I know the GW Bush crowd got slammed for “withdrawing” items from their reg agendas, but at least they weren’t fooling anybody on what they were planning to accomplish.

  6. What is the purpose of the agenda? I review the agenda to have an idea of what OSHA will be or is working on. Without an agenda will we know what they are working on? It is just a plan and they meet or not meet all the target dates. But at least it is an official plan. I prepare a yearly and long term safety plan for my company. We meet some of the dates and we miss others. If we set unrealistic dates it is our own problem. How about the so called transparency that this administration preached so much about?
    OSHA should publish the agenda or a document that at least outlines what they will be working on. If not, who knows what they are doing? We need a plan to hold the government accountable. As it is the leaders of our government are incompetent. The staff of these agencies deserve better than playing political games.

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