The internet is filled with websites that track Congressional activities. What about tracking agency activities? Tracking regulations used to consist of reading the Federal Register each day-- as you would a newspaper-- to find out what new rule was affecting you and your clients.
Now the process, like everything else, is online and available for free. We no longer need to read the Federal Register each day. Since the federal government has released Federal Register material in XML format private sites have also began publishing the information. This is not to say that the government sites are inferior. Since both public and private sites have their pluses and minuses it is worthwhile examining what a sampling of these sites provide.
This is the home to the Federal Register and it is very attractive. The site is nice to look at, unlike many government sites of the past. It breaks down the current Federal Register into Notices, Proposed Rules, Rules, and Presidential Documents (at least it did on the day I looked at it). The site also breaks down the Federal REgister by categories like Money, Environment, World, Science & Technology, Business & Industry, and Health & Public Welfare. There is also search and browse functions. The web sites 21st Century pedigree is evident that there is a blog with instructional videos and the ability to subscribe via RSS feed.
Regulations.gov tends to focus on the process of rulemaking rather than the final product. Regulations.gov posts new regulations, but it also posts public comments on proposed rules and encourages visitors to post comments. This is an excellent source for researching the “regulatory history” of a particular rule. The site provides search and browse functions including browse by category and by topic. The site provides the docket folder for a regulation which contains all the comments and other supporting documentation. Regulations.gov provides email alerts for regulations of interest.
This website, sponsored by the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs which is part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is a little different from the two preceding sites. This site provides information on regulations that are undergoing review by OMB which occurs outside the Federal Register publication process. The rules reviewed by OMB have significant financial impact. The site also provides a copy of the Unified Agenda, which is a bi-annual compilation of all regulatory actions federal agencies are considering. The value provided by this site it allows a researcher to see what is coming down the pike in regard to important regulations by seeing what OMB is reviewing and what agencies are considering.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Private Sites