Regulatory Flexibility Act:

Agencies' Use of the October 1997 Unified Agenda Often Did Not Satisfy Notification Requirements

GGD-98-61R: Published: Feb 12, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 12, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether federal agencies' entries in the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions satisfy the notification requirements of subsection 610(c) of the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980.

GAO noted that: (1) pursuant to recommendations in GAO's last report, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator issued guidance in June 1997 on how to use the Unified Agenda to satisfy the notification requirements, and the most recent edition of the Agenda contains an index listing all of the section 610 reviews by agency; (2) nevertheless, most of the agencies' entries in the most recent edition of the Agenda did not meet the public notification requirements of subsection 610(c); (3) of the thousands of entries in the Agenda submitted by 59 federal departments, agencies, and commissions, 7 agencies identified a total of 34 entries as section 610 reviews; and (4) of these, only three satisfied all of the requirements of subsection 610(c).

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Regulatory Information Service Center contacted agencies with section 610 entries in the Unified Agenda and encouraged them to improve their compliance with the statute. The Center also changed the form agencies submit to differentiate between upcoming/ongoing reviews and reviews that are completed, and is continuing to work with the agencies. In January 1999, the Acting Administrator of OIRA issued a memorandum for regulatory policy officers that, in part, reminded agencies of the requirements in section 610(c), and stating that the agencies "should include in your agenda entries a brief description of each rule and the need for, and legal basis of, such rule. Also, you should 'invite public comment upon the rule' in your agency's preamble to the Agenda. In July 1999, the OIRA Administrator included a section in his guidelines for the Unified Agenda noting the options that agencies had for identifying their section 610 reviews (e.g., "completion of a section 610 review" and "rulemaking resulting from a section 610 review"), and cautioning the agencies that the information provided should apply to the activity being reported, not to the underlying rule. In both the January and July memorandums, OIRA cited GAO's reports on section 610.

    Recommendation: The Executive Director, Regulatory Information Service Center, in consultation with OIRA and other agencies, should ensure that entries characterized as section 610 reviews in future editions of the Unified Agenda meet the requirements of subsection 610(c) of title 5. Specifically, those entries should: (1) involve rules that the agencies expect will have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities; (2) involve existing rules that are to be reviewed pursuant to section 610 in the succeeding 12 months; (3) describe the rules, the need for the rules, and their legal basis; and (4) invite public comment on the rules.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration: Regulatory Information Service Center


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