Editor’s Note: The Publisher’s Note below is cross-posted from OIRA Watch.
The Data Quality Act (DQA), aka the Information Quality Act, allows members of the public to file citizen petitions to obtain corrections of inaccurate information disseminated by federal agencies. Consequently the DQA provides a means for the public to obtain corrections in press releases, reports and regulations issued by federal agencies. In essence the DQA merely requires that federal agencies tell the truth.
Notwithstanding analyses and a judicial decision to the contrary, the Department of Justice has informed the courts, in both Democratic and Republican Administrations, that if a federal agency refuses to make a correction sought by a member of the public that the denial is not reviewable by the courts. The aforementioned action by DOJ has had a chilling impact on the Act because federal agencies know that unless there is an intervention by OMB they can ignore citizen petitions to correct inaccurate information disseminated by a federal agency.
As the Trump Administration develops its regulatory initiative nothing is as easy as changing the position of the Executive Branch on the justiciability of the Act. By a simple stroke of the pen the incoming Administration could empower all US citizens with the right to become involved in the regulatory process by serving as regulatory watchdogs. This objective would be accomplished by having OMB send an announcement to all federal agencies that heretofore the Administration will support judicial review of the DQA but reserves the right to oppose the adoption of a particular proposed Request for Correction that it deems to be inconsistent with the Act. Increasing the accessibility of the Data Quality Act is a disciplined regulatory initiative because agency decisions will be buttressed by Chevron and Auer defense arguments.
Simply declaring that the view of the Administration is that actions taken pursuant to the Data Quality Act are judicially reviewable can be accomplished without passing a law, without passing a regulation or even without signing an Executive order but instead simply making an announcement to the agencies as was the case when the President established centralized regulatory review—nearly a decade before OIRA was established by statute. It does not get any simpler than this and could constitute a litmus test with regard to the strength of future actions to control the growth of the regulatory state.
The aforementioned action would also reduce the need for a number of the regulatory proposals presently before the Congress, a twofer—in particular legislation requiring that the regulations issued by independent agencies be subjected to OMB review. This bridge was crossed in part when existing legislation, the Paperwork Reduction Act, gave OMB jurisdiction over the information requirements contained in the rules issued by independent agencies. Making the Data Quality Act judicially reviewable would complete the job because the substantive portions of a regulation issued by an independent agency would now be subject to OMB review as is the case with regulations issued by Executive Branch agencies.
In addition, such an action would unleash the heretofore untapped resources of the general public to serve as regulatory watchdogs.
N. B. The author is approaching his 10th change in Presidential Administrations, five from a position in the federal government and five from a position outside the Federal Government; the opportunity presented herein is unique in that it combines the strengths of public participation, centralized regulatory review and accuracy in government.