The Cornell E-Rulemaking Initiative (CeRI) has been exploring technological innovation as a supplement to formal Notice and Comment rulemaking provided by the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations. Attorneys and professional associations frequently submit lengthy comments regarding important proposed rules but advocates for open government worry that participation by affected individuals is lacking.
A recent CeRI article by Cynthia R. Farina, Dmitry Epstein, Josiah Heidt, and Mary J. Newhart summarizes some of the CeRI findings: "Regulation Room: Getting 'More, Better' Civic Participation in Complex Government Policymaking." CeRi's 'Regulation Room' supported online participation for 5 proposed federal rules & then evaluated the impact in their recent paper. The rules governed texting while driving, Electronic Onboard Recorders in trucks, airline passenger rights, airline kiosk and website accessibility, and consumer protections for home financing. In addition to providing an opportunity to comment on particular sections of the proposals, CeRi members advertised the regulations on social media and then moderated comments by asking for more detailed information. The paper analyzed the effectiveness of the Regulation Room initiative by looking at the summary of the comments in the final rules as well as the type of comments forwarded to the agency. Without the Regulation Room support, there is a participation literacy barrier: many members of the public don't have the ability or inclination to devote a significant amount of time reading through lengthy proposed regulations, even if the proposal has a direct impact.
For more on the latest scholarly articles from CeRI and the rest of the law school faculty visit the repository at Scholarship@Cornell Law.