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®: CRE Regulatory Action of the Week

US Civil Rights Commission Surveys: Another Case of Paperwork Reduction Act Evasion

On February 16, 2000, the US Civil Rights Commission published four "emergency" requests for OMB clearance of proposed information collections under the Paperwork Reduction Act. See 65 Fed. Reg. 7825-28. All four requests seek data that the Commission will use to conduct annual surveys on employment discrimination. By seeking these four clearances on an "emergency" basis, the Commission is evading full public (and OMB) scrutiny as required by the Act.

Under the Paperwork Reduction Act, an "emergency" clearance is permissible only if public harm would result in the absence of the expedited clearance, an unanticipated event has occurred, or use of the normal procedures would prevent or disrupt the information collection or cause the agency to miss a deadline imposed by Congress or the courts. See 5 C.F.R. 1320.13(a)(2).

All four of the information collection requests pertain to garden-variety surveys. Virtually none of the surveys involves time-sensitive issues. There are no statutory or court-ordered deadlines at issue. None of the requested data will cease to be available to the Commission if it complies with the normal clearance procedures. Nor do the notices explain why the Commission could not have published these notices six months ago.

The Civil Rights Commission notices are also grossly defective because they fail to provide adequate background information to enable an informed assessment of whether clearance is appropriate based on the statutory criteria of the Paperwork Reduction Act. Unaddressed or inadequately addressed issues include: (1) practical utility, (2) statutory or programmatic need, and (3) how the Commission arrived at its final burden estimates. Without full disclosure by the Commission, it is virtually impossible for members of the public to exercise their right to comment on the Commission's requests. On this basis alone, OMB is obligated to disapprove the clearance requests.

CRE believes that it would be a violation of the Paperwork Reduction Act for OMB to approve the Commission's "emergency" requests at the present time because there are no emergency circumstances to justify the Commission's derogation of its statutory obligations. CRE further cites this clearance proceeding as an example of the lax manner in which the Paperwork Reduction Act is being implemented by the federal government.

Please click below to submit comments to the CRE on the Paperwork Reduction Act Evasion.
Paperwork Reduction Act: CRE Interactive Public Docket

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