By Sam Berger, Associate Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

Regulations affect our daily lives in a myriad of ways. They help keep our air and water clean, make transportation more reliable, protect consumers and workers, improve our health and well-being, and shape a stronger and more equitable economy. Today, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is releasing the 2024 Spring Regulatory Agenda, which details regulatory actions that Federal agencies are considering as well as recently completed actions. These actions continue this Administration’s progress in delivering for the American people, including by investing in America, lowering costs for families, combating climate change, and growing the economy from the middle out and bottom up.

Given the broad range of communities affected by regulations—including workers, small businesses, and families across the country—the Biden-Harris Administration has made a concerted effort to increase public involvement in the development of regulations, particularly early in the process. By hearing directly from those most affected by an issue or problem, agencies can better understand on-the-ground impacts and how to effectively address them. And when people see that their views matter—that they are taken into account and can shape government actions—that can lead to more trust in government as well.

Consistent with the President’s Executive Order, “Modernizing Regulatory Review,” and OIRA’s subsequent implementing guidance on broadening public participation and community engagement in the regulatory process, the 2023 Fall Agenda was the first unified agenda in which agencies included a description of their efforts to encourage public participation and how such participation informed the development of their regulatory priorities. In the 2024 Spring Agenda, agencies have expanded these discussions of their public participation efforts, detailing key advancements in public outreach and notable instances of public participation. 

The 2024 Spring Agenda highlights concerted efforts by agencies to seek early public input. For example, the Department of Labor (DOL) noted that its plans to publish updated regulations for the National Apprenticeship System were informed by extensive public engagement, even before a proposed rule was published. DOL held listening sessions with a broad cross-section of apprenticeship stakeholders in 2021, opened a National Online Dialogue in 2022, and again held further listening sessions in 2023.

Likewise, in developing regulations for rights-of-way, leasing, and operations related to activities associated with solar and wind energy development, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducted broad public and Tribal outreach both prior to publication of a proposed rule and during the public comment period, including three public listening sessions in 2021 and three virtual public meetings after the proposed rule was published. In addition, BLM invited Tribes to consult on the rule and responded to requests for consultation.

Agencies also noted the positive effects of their participation efforts. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) discussed how a virtual roundtable session with various veteran service organizations and other caregiver advocacy groups helped inform changes it has proposed to its assistance program for family caregivers. And the Food and Nutrition Service noted how its rule to reduce barriers to online ordering and modernize vender regulations in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will be informed by feedback it received from a variety of WIC stakeholders and a report issued by a Department of Agriculture task force comprised of members from state agencies, industry associations, food producers, and WIC participants.

The Agenda also includes discussions of upcoming opportunities for public engagement. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is planning a series of public listening sessions in summer 2024 concerning a rulemaking to update its methodology for determining whether a motor carrier is not fit to operate commercial motor vehicles. FMCSA also discussed its TechCelerate program, designed to advance the adoption of advanced driver assist systems in commercial motor vehicles. The Agency is promoting the program with an ongoing national outreach campaign, with an expansion of its outreach and education efforts on the horizon.

Improving public engagement is an important and ongoing effort, and agencies and OIRA will continue to identify opportunities for supporting meaningful public engagement in the regulatory process. Hearing from the people, businesses, and other stakeholders most impacted by a particular issue or problem can help agencies better understand how to effectively address that issue, leading to better, more targeted rulemaking that is more responsive, effective, durable, and equitable. We look forward to continued public engagement in the regulatory process to ensure that the Administration’s policies address the most pressing concerns of communities throughout the country and deliver the most value to the American people.

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