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Advances in eRulemaking Open Avenues for Public Participation Open Access

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Federal regulation in the United States is at least nominally a collaborative project between the regulatory agencies and the public. The Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 and Presidential Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 require agencies to accept public comments on proposed rules and address them in revisions and final versions of rules. However, the volume of regulation and complicated nature of many regulatory proposals have historically made it difficult for citizens to be involved in the process. This was particularly true when the only access to documents supporting regulations were hard copies of materials stored in agency reading room filing cabinets. The advent of the Internet offered potential for significant improvements in transparency and public participation across the Federal government, and for over a decade, the federal government has been working to take advantage of new technologies and opportunities. In 2003, an interagency eRulemaking team released Regulations.gov, a centralized, searchable database of executive agencies’ regulatory actions that allows the public to submit comments on rules as well as view and respond to other comments. In the ten years since its release, Regulations.gov has won awards from the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Council for Technology, Adobe, and MeriTalk. It has also faced some constructive criticism regarding its ease of use, data accessibility and completeness, and its speed at adopting Web 2.0 technologies.

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