Header graphic for print
Federal Regulations Advisor Insight and Commentary on U.S. Government Regulatory Affairs

Administrative Conference (ACUS) Meetings on Science and Paperwork

Posted in Regulatory Process

The Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) announced a schedule of committee meetings to consider research projects and possible recommendations  – two of which are of particular interest:

  • ACUS Committee on Regulation will meet on March 7 to consider its Science in the Administrative Process project draft report.
  • ACUS Committee on Administration and Management will meet on February 29 to consider its Paperwork Reduction Act project draft report.

The Science Study:  Professor Wagner (Texas) is investigating how agencies use and oversee science in the administrative process.  Professor Wagner’s draft report has not yet been released, but her revised outline suggests that an important regulatory issue is on the table:  strengthening agency processes for communicating how it uses science in the regulatory process.  Recommendations could include:

  • Explanation of the scientific evidence considered;
  • Explication of the Agencies assessment of studies, its assumptions, and its methods of analysis; and
  • Incentives for doing a good job explicating the rule of science.

A rational decision, not a formula.  In my opinion, science informs the regulatory decision, along with economics and other disciplines, but the sum of the regulatory decision must reflect a rational consideration of all of the relevant data as the Supreme Court interpreted the Administrative Procedure Act in State Farm.  Some have argued that either science or economics or some other discipline should control the regulatory decision, but at the end of the day, a regulatory decision should be the sum of all considerations, including practicality and politics.

The Paperwork Reduction Study:  The Committee on Administration and Management will meet on February 29 to discuss Professor Stuart Shapiro’s (Rutgers) draft report on proposed improvements in the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA).  Currently, the PRA requires OMB approval of paperwork burdens and permits a defense against administrative and judicial action if OMB has not approved.

PRA as Bureaucracy:  Among other things, I think Professor Shapiro (who once worked at OMB) should consider whether the PRA has become a bureaucracy unto itself – a process whose cost exceeds the value of the substance of its product.  Reducing paperwork burdens is a good thing, but at what cost?  The outline and report are not yet available.

ACUS:  More details will become available on the ACUS website.