The Washington Post published an article about the new reginfo online version of the federal regulatory agenda. "For U.S. rule-watchers who live in the digital world, the new searchable online version of the Bush administration's semi-annual regulatory agenda is an early holiday gift. For those who like to scoff at 1,500-page lists of documents, it's cause for Scrooge-like complaints. In print, the agenda is slimmed down to a mere 483 pages in the Dec. 10 Federal Register. That compares with the 1,700-page online edition, which contains the administration's full list of proposed and expected health, safety and other rules....Now you can search for a 2005 proposal by the Department of Health and Human Services to set standards for a sort of retirement home for chimpanzees used in federal research. Or you can discover a recent rulemaking to determine whether passengers on small planes should get compensation when they are bumped off of a flight on which they have reservations."
If I take 10 minutes, I can come up with ten better ways this information could have been made publicly available online, some of which are suggested by the article. Other ideas?
1) List rules in terms of priorities, not agencies. Let's see what matters!
2) Make rules taggable and therefore searchable by subject more readily. Now they can only be searched by name of agency.
3) Post a list of questions with each rule on which citizen participation is sought or let people come up with their own questions.
4) Show, using a timeline or some other visual metric, how a rule has progressed and whether stated targets have been met.
5) Offer an API to allow others to mash-up and make good use of this data.
6) Connect the rules to opportunities for action - allow people to comment on pending rules or at least link back to www.regulations.gov.
7) Show the connections between the stated regulatory priorities enunciated in each agency's statement and the agency rule list.
8) Link back to the rules themselves. Now I can see a summary and then I have to go to another website type in the legal citation and then pull up the rule.
9) Tell me something about what a rule is likely to cost. Show me the environmental and other impact statements that might have been filed in connection with the rule.
10) Taking a cue from the Washington Watch wiki, create a mirror version of each regulatory agenda and each rule and let people annotate them.
Thanks to Prof. Cary Coglianese for pointing me to the article.