President Joe Biden signed an executive order (EO) on modernizing regulatory review policies this week, with an emphasis on making the process more equitable and inclusive.
The April 6 directive aims to fold more considerations for underserved communities and State, local, territorial, and Tribal agencies into the regulatory review process. The EO follows up on a memorandum President Biden signed on his first day in office.
For nearly four decades, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has been charged by presidents of both parties with reviewing significant executive branch regulatory actions. When carried out properly, the White House wrote, that process can help to advance regulatory policies that improve the lives of the American people.
The EO reads that in order to “inform the development of regulatory agendas and plans,” agencies must begin to proactively engage “interested or affected parties” in the regulatory process – like members of underserved communities, businesses, labor organizations, other others.
“These efforts shall incorporate, to the extent consistent with applicable law, best practices for information accessibility and engagement with interested or affected parties, including, as practicable and appropriate, community-based outreach; outreach to organizations that work with interested or affected parties; use of agency field offices; use of alternative platforms and media for engaging the public; and expansion of public capacity for engaging in the rulemaking process,” Biden’s EO says.
The EO homes in on the notion that the public needs to be more involved in the regulatory process, requiring OIRA to consider more meeting requests initiated by civilians in order to further the efficiency and effectiveness of the regulatory review process.
Biden’s EO called on OIRA to make an effort to “ensure access for meeting requesters who have not historically requested such meetings.”
Biden Calls on OIRA to Modernize Regulatory Comment Process
In addition to emphasizing equity in the regulatory process, President Biden’s EO requests that the administrator of OIRA – Richard Revesz – consider guidance or tools to modernize the notice-and-comment process, including through technological changes.
“These reforms may include guidance or tools to address mass comments, computer-generated comments (such as those generated through artificial intelligence), and falsely attributed comments,” the EO says.
This reform is meant to address incidents like when the Federal Communications Commission received a whopping 24 million comments regarding net neutrality between April and August of 2017.
A study later found that millions of the comments were fake, including ones that were deliberately filed using other people’s email addresses, including those of Senators, journalists, and dead people.
These automated campaigns were intended to disrupt the public comment process, the report says.
To avoid incidents of AI bots taking over the regulatory comment process, Biden’s new directive requires the administrator of OIRA, in consultation with relevant agencies, to consider guidance or tools that will modernize the notice-and-comment process through technological changes.