Reining In Government by Dear Colleague Letter: An Update
Editor’s Note: For more on the confluence the OIRA’s memorandum on guidance document and the ACUS study of guidance documents, see the discussion here @ 2:48:33.
By Walter Olson
On April 11, the White House Office of Management and Budget tightened another means of control when it issued guidance (irony alert) about the duty of agencies, including traditionally independent agencies, to notify OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs well in advance of publishing new rules to ensure compliance with the Congressional Review Act. The guidance makes clear that “rule” can sometimes include “guidance documents, general statements of policy, and interpretive rules” that do not go through a conventional rulemaking process.
Meanwhile, on a separate track, the unglamorous but often influential federal agency known as the Administrative Conference of the United States commissioned Yale law professor Nicholas Parrillo to write a lengthy study on the guidance issue. (Spinoffs: summary by Parrillo and Lee Liberman Otis, Yale Journal on Regulation and related symposium, Federalist Society panel.) Parrillo agrees that the problems with guidance are real, but argues that most of them arise from structural difficulties within administrative and legal bureaucracy, rather than from a purposeful intent to circumvent process protections. He also finds that they come up unevenly: regulated parties are most likely to feel that they have no real choice but to obey guidance 1) when they need to obtain preapproval before doing business, 2) when repeat interactions with regulators are inevitable and full compliance all the time is unlikely no matter how hard they try; 3) when the consequences of agency enforcement, or even the opening of an enforcement action, are severe; and 4) when the regulated party employs a large dedicated compliance staff.