What are regulations?
Regulations are the way a federal agency publicly explains how it will interpret and implement a federal law. Often, a new law doesn’t provide the details about how a program should work but authorizes a federal agency to fill in details. For example, Congress might say “Every car should have seat belts.” The agency would have to determine the deadlines for when car manufacturers have to include seat belts, how many seat belts, whether lap belts or shoulder belts are required, whether seat belts are needed in the back seat, etc. Regulations provide these kinds of details.
What’s a Public Comment?
Each time a federal agency wants to adopt or change regulations, it has to ask the public for input. It’s actually required by federal law. A federal agency writes its proposed regulations and then asks for public comments. The agency has to consider whether it should make any changes to its proposal based on the comments before finalizing the regulation. Whether an agency is proposing new regulations or changing older ones, it has to give the public a change to weigh in.
Do Comments work? Will I be Heard?
Yes! The Administration has to consider all the comments submitted during a public comment period. It’s the law! The agency really has to review all the comments. While it does not have to explain why it did (or did not) make changes suggested by the comments, it does need to address significant issues that commenters raise. The agency will also need to explain the types of comments it received and whether it made any changes to its proposed rule based on those comments. An agency can’t just ignore comments because it doesn’t like them.