Electronic Rulemaking in the New Age of Openness: Proposing a Voluntary Two-Tier Registration System for Regulations.gov
The Obama Administration has identified open government as a top priority, announcing that government transparency, public participation, and collaboration between citizens and lawmakers are the movement’s three chief goals. The new initiative has focused on innovations in internet technology to achieve these goals. Of particular importance is the Administration’s plan for electronic rulemaking (e-rulemaking), an initiative that augments traditional notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures by allowing federal agencies to post proposed regulations online. One recommendation is to modify Regulations.gov, the government’s portal website that facilitates e-rulemaking, by allowing users to register with the system and create customizable homepages.
Although this innovation would help advance the goals of open government, it does not recognize the role that interest groups play in agency rulemaking. The importance of interest groups has been recognized since the nation’s founding, yet there are no specialized rules governing lobbyist conduct in rulemaking. One potential approach for addressing this problem comes from the European Commission’s “Your Voice in Europe” website, which is the European equivalent to Regulations.gov. The Your Voice website features, among other things, a registration system that differentiates between interest groups and ordinary citizens. This Comment argues that the lessons from Europe could provide valuable insights for devising a two-tiered registration system for Regulations.gov that recognizes the role of interest groups in rulemaking by maximizing the benefits these groups provide to the process while mitigating the corresponding costs.