One of the most significant powers exercised by federal agencies is their power to make rules. Given the importance of agency rulemaking, the process by which agencies develop rules has long been subject to procedural requirements aiming to advance democratic values of openness and public participation. With the advent of the digital age, government agencies have engaged in increasing efforts to make rulemaking information available online as well as to elicit public participation via electronic means of communication. How successful are these efforts? How might they be improved? In this article, I investigate agencies’ efforts to make rulemaking information available online. Drawing on a review of current agency uses of the Internet, a systematic survey of regulatory agencies’ websites, and interviews with managers at a variety of federal regulatory agencies, I identify both existing “best practices” as well as opportunities for continued improvement. The findings of this research suggest that there exist both considerable differences in how well different agencies are making rulemaking information available online as well as significant opportunities for the diffusion of best-practice innovations that some agencies have adopted. This research also provides a basis for seven recommendations that I offer for enhancing both the accessibility and quality of rulemaking through online technology. A commitment to well-accepted democratic principles applicable to regulatory agencies should lead federal web designers to strive to create websites that are as accessible to ordinary citizens, including individuals with limited English proficiency, vision impairments, and low-bandwidth connections, as they are to the sophisticated repeat players in Washington policymaking circles.
Enhancing Public Access to Online Rulemaking Information,
Mich. J. Envtl. & Admin. L.
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mjeal/vol2/iss1/1