Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CRS Report Released: Counting Regulations: An Overview of Rulemaking, Types of Federal Regulations, and Pages in the Federal Register

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, recently issued the report Counting Regulations: An Overview of Rulemaking, Types of Federal Regulations, and Pages in the Federal Register (May 1, 2013). The 21-page report authored by Maeve P. Carey, discusses the following:


Federal rulemaking is an important mechanism through which the federal government implements policy. Federal agencies issue regulations pursuant to statutory authority granted by Congress. Therefore, Congress may have an interest in performing oversight of those regulations. Measuring federal regulatory activity can be a useful way for Congress to conduct that oversight. The number of federal rules issued annually and the total number of pages in the Federal Register are often referred to as measures of the total federal regulatory burden.

Certain methods of quantifying regulatory activity, however, may provide an imperfect portrayal of the total federal rulemaking burden. For example, the number of final rules published each year is generally in the range of 2,500-4,500, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Some of those rules have a large effect on the economy, and others have a significant legal and/or policy effect, even if the costs and benefits are minimal. On the other hand, many federal rules are routine in nature and impose minimal regulatory burden, if any. In addition, rules that are deregulatory in nature and those that repeal existing rules are still defined as “rules” under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.) and are therefore included in that total.

The Federal Register provides documentation of the government’s regulatory and other actions, and some scholars, commentators, and public officials have used the total number of Federal Register pages each year as a measure for the total amount of regulatory activity. Because the Federal Register has been in print since the 1930s, the number of pages can be useful for crosstime comparisons. However, the total number of Federal Register pages may not be an accurate way to measure regulatory activity for several reasons. In addition to publishing proposed and final rules in the Federal Register, agencies publish other items that may be related to regulations, such as notices of public meetings and extensions of comment periods. The Federal Register also contains many other items related to non-regulatory activities, including presidential documents, notices, and corrections. In 2011, approximately 32% of the total pages in the Federal Register were in the “Rules and Regulations” section, the section in which final rules are published.

This report serves to inform the congressional debate over rulemaking by analyzing different ways to measure federal rulemaking activity. The report provides data on and analysis of the  total number of rules issued each year, as well as information on other types of rules, such as “major” rules, “significant” rules, and “economically significant” rules. These categories have been created by various statutes and executive orders containing requirements that may be triggered if a regulation falls into one of the categories. When available, data are provided on each type of rule. Finally, the report provides data on the number of pages and documents in the Federal Register each year and analyzes the content of the Federal Register.

No comments: