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Friday, August 3, 2012

Regulation Tracking: Part 2: Private Sites

In Part 1 of Regulation Tracking we looked at three free federal regulation trackers sponsored by the U.S. government.  In Part 2 we will take a look at some regulations trackers sponsored by private groups and see how they stack up against the ones sponsored by the government.

Openregs.com (www.openregs.com) is a project of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.   The site is tabbed across the top with tabs for “Today”, “Agencies “, “Learn”, and “Regulatory Report Card”. The “Today” tab lists rules that have their comment period closing today, rules recently opened for comment, recently published final regulations, and recently proposed “economically significant” regulations.  On previous days I noted that they also list proposed and final rules. Along the side is section for “Popular on OpenRegs.com” and “Regulations in the News.”  The front page is very helpful, boiling down important matters that appear in the Federal Register to manageable categories and providing links to the actual regulation.  What I did not see is a link to that days Federal Register if you were interested in seeing the other material that appears, but is not listed on the web site. 

The site is directed at the citizen unsophisticated in the ways of the administrative state; this is evidenced by the tab which provides an introduction to what regulations are, who makes them, how they are made, and why they are important.  All of this is very helpful, but it must also be taken with a grain of salt because this site is not without an agenda.  The site’s sponsor, the Mercatus Center bills itself as “the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas.”  Translated this means that the Mercatus Center has a politically libertarian bent and thus views any type of government intrusion into the market as either wrong or down right illegitimate. Their view of government regulations is obvious from their choice of “Regulations in the News.” Out of five stories presented, four are critical of government regulations. Headlines like “Federal Regulation Strangles Chemical Security” and “Regulations are chocking small business engine of growth” are pretty obvious of a right/libertarian slant. There is also a “Regulatory Report Card” tab. This tab provides regulations that have a Mercatus.org Report Card. I have a feeling that very few regulations receive passing grades. The political slant of this site should be kept in mind when reading any of the commentary provided by the site’s sponsor. 

Openregs.com is useful as a short-cut to finding out what is going on in the world of federal regulations on a particular day, but be aware that added content may come with a particular world view.

Justia Regulations Tracker (http://regulations.justia.com) is part of the Justia family of web sites.  While Openregs.com focuses more on current awareness; Justia focuses more on searching the Federal Register. Justia allows searching back to 2005 across all agencies and allows narrowing of search by type of notice, ie Rules, Proposed Rules, Administrative Orders, Executive Orders, Notices, and Proclamations.  Justia also allows browsing by year and by individual agency. Another feature that Justia Regulations Tracker provides is the ability to set up an RSS feed allowing researchers to easily follow the Federal Register via Justia.  What I also noticed that Justia provides something that Openregs.com lacks; links to the “Reader Aids”. 
It is obvious that these sites fulfill two different missions. The Openreg.com site is excellent for finding out what happened today. Justia Regulations Tracker is better for reviewing the Federal Register past and present.  

I went back and reviewed the sites I mentioned in Part 1 of this series and I noticed how each of those sites tended to each do something  a little bit different, but together they give the researcher a complete picture of past, present, and future regulations. I think the two sites I have reviewed here fit into that picture, both add a little bit to the overall view of the Federal Register.  While it may be too much to recommend using all of these sites it wouldn’t be too much to say use Regulations.gov to check on comments, use Openregs.com to see what is happening today and use Reginfo.gov to see what is happening tomorrow, and use Justia Regulation Tracker to see what happened in the past. It’s nice when the public and private sectors can work together to get things done, isn’t it?

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