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Report on First OMB-Sponsored Federal Agency "Roundtable" On "Collecting Information in the Information Age"


CRE is pleased to report on a new OMB regulatory-improvement initiative, a positive development and in which interested parties should seek to participate. As stated in an April 12th letter from John T. Spotila, Administrator of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs:

The Office of Management and Budget is launching an initiative to examine how the federal government can collect information more effectively and efficiently. The initiative will focus on improving the quality of the information the government collects, while minimizing the collection burden, particularly through the use of information technology.

Executive Summary

  • OMB seems genuinely interested in promoting more streamlined, less burdensome regulatory reporting requirements wherever possible. Such reporting will involve expanded use of the Internet, and will include many, if not all, federal agencies.
    Interested parties should pursue this opportunity to address specific regulatory reporting burdens.
  • On April 27 and 28, 2000, the OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) convened a meeting of stakeholders of six federal agencies to discuss the agencies' ideas for topics such as revising federal regulatory reporting requirements and/or using Internet technology and new agency operational practices to minimize burdens on the regulated community and to improve Data Quality. The six agencies participating were:
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Health Care Financing Administration (HHS)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Labor)
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Student Financial Assistance Office (Education)
  • The measures under discussion included:
  • Encouraging electronic filing of required reports (EPA and IRS)
  • Consolidating and simplifying multiple reporting requirements applicable to the same industry/sector (EPA)
  • Establishing centralized agency contact points for members of the public seeking information on diverse agency programs (USDA)
  • Establishing a central report-receiving point in each agency so that regulated parties need not repetitiously file the same information again and again with various program offices within the same agency (EPA)
  • Developing electronic "smart forms" that will include "pop-up" explanations/directions for key entry items (in computer lingo, "data entry fields") and will alert the user in "real time" as the user is filling out the form on the computer -- to possible errors or inconsistencies in information submitted, calculations, etc.
  • Invited attendees included agency personnel, representatives of affected companies and trade associations, state and local officials with delegated responsibility for the featured regulatory programs, public interest groups, and persons with a longstanding interest in federal agency regulatory performance.

  • A senior official from each agency spoke at the "plenary" opening session on April 27 at the White House (Old Executive Office Building), which was keynoted by OMB/OIRA Administrator John T. Spotila.

  • There was considerable emphasis on the burdens on small businesses.

  • The Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration, was one of the key speakers. Clearly, his office has been very active at OMB and at various agencies championing burden reduction and simplification of federal regulatory requirements.

  • OMB and other speakers showed sensitivity to the disproportionate burden that current reporting requirements may impose on small businesses.
  • The OMB meeting was not a one-time event. OMB seems genuinely interested in hearing ideas for reducing burden and simplifying regulatory life and regulatory compliance where possible to do so within statutory constraints.

  • EPA, for its part, expressed willingness to consider reasonable changes in regulatory programs even if they would require a statutory amendment.
  • As part of this initiative, OMB also issued a Federal Register notice soliciting public comments on how Federal agencies can:

  • Improve the quality of data collected
  • Reduce the burden on the reporting public
  • Disseminate better information to the public
  • Employ modern information technology, including the Internet, to achieve those objectives.
  • The FR notice can be found at -65 FR page 25004, April 28, 2000. The public comment period closes June 12, 2000. Comments can be filed electronically at the docket established for this initiative at the Department of Transportation's electronic docket, . The docket number at DOT is 7156.

  • Anyone interested in learning more about the overall OMB initiative should contact: Ronald F. Matzner, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, OMB, (202) 395-4856.
  • Agency-Specific Issues Discussed

  • RCRA Burden Reduction
  • TSCA Electronic Reporting
  • TRI Certification
  • Clean Air Act:
  • Consolidated Emissions Reporting
  • Lessons Learned from EPA-Industry Exercise to Consolidate Federal Rules for the Synthetic Organic Chemical Industry
  • HCFA
  • Certificates of Medical Necessity for Medical Equipment
  • IRS
  • Self-Employed Tax Burden
  • OSHA
  • Certifying Regulatory Compliance
  • USDA
  • "Service Center" Initiative
  • Future "Roundtables"

  • Employment Tax Burden (May 8)
  • HCFA
  • Provider Enrollment (May 10)
  • IRS
  • Post-Filing Burden (May 11