Where Is Obama’s Unified Agenda Of Federal Regulations?

Two primary federal documents by which we judge the regulatory record of the administration are missing in action this year.

We at least can say, as of today, there are 61,720 pages in the Federal Register, and that 3,045 rules have been finalized.

But every year since 1981, the federal Regulatory Information Service Center (RISC) has issued the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. It has regularly appeared as part of the Federal Register each spring and fall, and bound separately besides. The rise of the Internet naturally brought us the online version a few years ago. Last year, the database was improved to allow easier segregation of “Active,” “Completed,” and “Long-Term” actions.

However, as may be seen on the RISC website, we have yet to get even the Spring 2012 edition, let alone the nearly due Fall edition. The Fall edition has been supplemented annually with the Regulatory Plan to provide additional clarity on agency visions and regulations’ effects.

A month ago, on Sept. 13, I was told by RISC, “Regrettably, as of now we don’t have a date as to when the Spring Unified Agenda will publish. Please continue to monitor Reginfo.gov for further updates.” It’s still not there; Fall 2011 is the most recent.

Also missing is the final version of the annual Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations and Unfunded Mandates on State, Local, and Tribal Entities. The draft version appeared in March 2012. But, as may be seen, the final version has not appeared.

These delays matter because the president promised to slim the regulatory waistline and has issued specific executive orders in the process. Expediting the data that would ease outside assessments would seem an obvious must-do.

It is true Bush issued more overall rules (coming off the Clinton era) over the past three years as the president likes to claim; but Obama issued more of the high-dollar “economically significant” variety  the Unified Agenda highlights. It’d be nice to have the figures and plans for 2012.

Congress should demand the updated Unified Agenda  for Spring be released immediately, and further, stipulate the Fall edition appear by or in December as has been the routine. Last year it was delayed until January.

Congress also should insist upon the release of the overdue final version of OMB’s Costs and Benefits report and expedite the new draft containing fiscal year 2012 rules, which just ended Sept. 30.

Accountability for regulations matters, and disclosure is a prerequisite.