US to develop portal for comment on pending regulations

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget wants to centralize federal regulatory information into a single Web portal by the end of the year, according to a statement (download PDF) by OMB Director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr.

Daniels wrote that the move would unify what he called "fragmented efforts" by a variety of federal agencies and fall in line with President Bush's "Online Rule-Making Initiative."

The decision to unify is due to an increase in the amount of traffic to federal Web sites, according to an OMB statement accompanying the memo.

"The Pew Foundation reports that 42 million Americans viewed federal regulations through the Internet in 2001, with 23 million commenting on proposed rules, regulations and policies," the statement reads. "According to the National Archives, the public retrieved more than 65 million documents from the online Federal Register in 2001."

With a single site, "the public will no longer need to navigate through a sea of agency Web sites to comment on regulations that impact their lives," said Mark Forman, OMB associate director for information technology and e-government.

Today, the public can comment on proposed regulations via the Web. Agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency gather public comments on proposals via the Web.

According to the OMB, maintaining redundant rule-making Web sites across the government will cost US$70 million over the next 18 months. It can also be confusing to the public, which has to know what agency is developing a regulation in order to find and comment on it.

The initiative is broken into two parts. First, OMB staff will work with various government agencies to inventory equipment and determine whether any one agency could serve as a model of how a larger portal should run.

The Department of Transportation will be the lead partner with the OMB in the investigation process. A specific Web address for the portal has not been selected, and an agency has not been chosen to oversee the new portal. Currently, the list of regulatory agencies can be accessed through www.firstgov.com. But finding that link can be difficult, which is another reason why the OMB wants to unify the information on a single portal.

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