By Sam Berger, OIRA Associate Administrator

Regulations set the rules of the road that affect our lives in a myriad of ways—whether it’s by providing access to affordable medicine, setting standards to keep workers safe on the job, making markets fairer and more competitive, or reducing children’s exposure to harmful toxins. A critical part of designing regulations that work is hearing from those who would be affected by them—the American people. Greater public participation leads to a more responsive—and effective—government that better addresses people’s needs.  

Today, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is releasing guidance detailing new steps that Federal agencies should take to make it easier for interested members of the public to voice their views in the regulatory process.

Hearing from those who are directly affected by a regulation or care about a specific issue helps ensure that we’re addressing the most pressing concerns of communities throughout the country. For example, listening to people who try to access government benefit programs and services can help Federal agencies identify and reduce unnecessary administrative burdens, like complicated or redundant forms, that make using those programs more difficult. That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to making it easier for people to have their voice heard in the regulatory process, including individuals from underserved communities whose voices have too frequently been ignored.

Today’s guidance delivers on President Biden’s charge in his Executive Order on Modernizing Regulatory Review to ensure equitable and meaningful participation in developing regulations. It also delivers on commitments OIRA made in the Fifth U.S. Open Government National Action Plan to create new tools and resources for expanding participation in the regulatory process. And it reflects President Biden’s vision of bolstering democratic governance at home and abroad by helping ensure a responsive, effective government.            

New directions to Federal agencies in the guidance include:

  • Calling on Federal agencies to use public engagement—such as working with a local organization to hold listening sessions to hear directly from impacted communities—to help set regulatory priorities, and to describe how public engagement informed those priorities in the Unified Agenda of Regulatory Actions compiled by OIRA each Fall and Spring. (The Unified Agenda is a public document, published twice a year, cataloging regulatory actions underway across the Federal government.)
  • Encouraging Federal agencies to review their policies on communication during the regulatory process to facilitate more proactive engagement—for instance, when Federal agencies actively reach out to communities that might be affected by a regulation but might not otherwise participate because of barriers such as lack of time, knowledge, accessibility, or trust in government.
  • Encouraging Federal agencies to adopt leading practices for public participation and community engagement, such as holding regular public listening sessions; using a variety of channels to share information with the public; and building on relationships that local, regional, or district agency offices might have with trusted community intermediaries.

OIRA’s guidance emphasizes the importance of reaching out to interested members of the public early in the regulatory development process to help build durable, two-way, and trust-based relationships between members of the public and Federal agencies. When developing this guidance, OIRA sought to model leading practices for public engagement ourselves. We held four listening sessions and invited public comments to learn more about barriers to greater participation in the regulatory process and potential steps for broadening participation. We’re grateful for the hundreds of participants who joined the listening sessions and submitted comments—all of which helped to inform this guidance.

We know that the work doesn’t stop with the issuance of this guidance. OIRA will work closely with Federal agencies in the coming months to identify opportunities for supporting more public participation in the regulatory process. We also want to hear from members of the public to understand how this process is going, and will hold a listening session in a year to take stock—and see how we could be doing better. Across the Biden-Harris Administration, we look forward to hearing from you throughout the regulatory process.

Stay Connected

Sign Up

We'll be in touch with the latest information on how President Biden and his administration are working for the American people, as well as ways you can get involved and help our country build back better.

Opt in to send and receive text messages from President Biden.

Scroll to Top Scroll to Top