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Federal Regulations Advisor Insight and Commentary on U.S. Government Regulatory Affairs

Fall 2013 Unified Agenda Published: Something New, Something Old

Posted in Regulatory Flexibility & Small Business, Regulatory Process

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) released the Fall 2013 Current Regulatory Plan and the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions on November 26, 2013.  Many of the rulemakings are “old hat” and have appeared in the plan and agenda many times – illustrating the fundamental issue of relevancy and currency – but OIRA Administrator Howard Shelanski has succeeded in putting the semi-annual publication back on a timely track.  The agenda provides only a semi-filtered view of each agency’s intentions, and must be considered within its limitations.

The “Unified Agenda” is shorthand for three distinctly different public statements of agency priorities.

  • Each agency Fall 2013 Agency Statements of Regulatory Priorities – often called the Regulatory Plan –  is currently available on Reginfo.gov and should begin appearing in the Federal Register indicates important or priority regulatory actions that are now under contemplation for issuance in proposed or final form during the upcoming fiscal year.  The Regulatory Plan is that which an agency is most sure about.
  • The agency Regulatory Agenda publications that will appear soon in the Federal Register include agency regulatory flexibility agendas to comply with the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) – only Agenda entries that are likely to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities and entries that have been selected for periodic re-review under the RFA.
  • The full Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions found on Reginfo.gov more comprehensively lists all agency regulatory actions, including less important, ministerial, and routine rulemakings that the agency expects to issue within the next year, but may also include long-term initiatives that the agencies do not expect to complete in the coming year.

The entire Unified Agenda is only a “snapshot” of intentions, and foreseen and unforeseen events can change an agency’s priorities quickly and frequently.  Moreover, the agency agendas reflect what the agency wants to make public, not necessarily all that they are actually considering, and some highly controversial issues may be withheld.  Finally, the agendas may indicate a posture that will not ultimately be approved – such as an interim final rule that may not pass Administrative Procedure Act (APA) muster on review – and skepticism is merited.  All that said, the Unified Agenda is worth reviewing by any regulated party.