Politics

Explaining the Brookings Regulatory Tracker

The Brookings Center on Regulations and Markets Regulatory Tracker (“Reg Tracker”) is a tool that tracks and provides insights into important regulatory actions by the federal government. Originally launched in October 2017, the Reg Tracker monitors a curated selection of executive agency rules, as well as notable guidance and policy introductions or revocations. The rules span a wide range of policy areas, including but not limited to education, labor, environment, and transportation.

This post provides context surrounding the regulatory process, details on what actions the Reg Tracker encompasses, and guidance on how to use its interactive features.

Background on the Reg Tracker

The Reg Tracker was first launched in October 2017 to monitor key regulatory changes during the Trump administration. In particular, early in his term, President Trump signed Executive Order 13771, the “two-for-one” deregulation order that required all agencies to enact two deregulatory measures for every new regulatory action. Our tracker sought to monitor the impact of this rule, as well as to highlight other key policy changes enacted through the executive branch.

After the transition to the Biden administration, we are relaunching the tracker to track President Biden’s major regulatory changes, including regulatory and deregulatory actions. In the next section, we will help you understand and navigate the updated tracker. For information on how we organized and monitored the Reg Tracker during the Trump administration, check out this blog post.

What is included in the Reg Tracker?

The Reg Tracker is a tool to monitor important federal policy changes made by the executive branch. Most entries in the Reg Tracker are regulations that are enacted through the rulemaking process of federal agencies. Federal rulemaking is governed, in large part, by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The process of issuing (or removing) regulations can be a long and arduous one. After a rule is “proposed,” it must undergo a public notice-and-comment period before it becomes “final” and “effective.” The Reg Tracker also includes policies enacted through other means, such as executive orders, memos, and guidance documents.

It is important to note that the Reg Tracker is not comprehensive. Instead, the tracker encompasses a curated set of rules that the Center on Regulation and Markets (CRM) staff deems to be particularly important. We use four key characteristics to determine if a rule should be included in the tracker:

  1. Media attention. If staff find that a rule receives coverage from at least two major news outlets, then we will consider including it in the tracker.
  2. Litigation. Rules that are the subject of any new or ongoing litigation will likely be included in the tracker after a more detailed review of the litigation action.
  3. Rollback of Trump rule. At the start of the Biden administration, we expect that many rules will be explicitly aimed at repealing or revising deregulations that had been passed during the Trump administration. We aim to include many of these rules in the tracker.
  4. General impact. If a rule does not meet any of the above qualifications but seems as though it will have a particularly strong impact based on staff judgment, then it may be included.

Using these criteria, the Reg Tracker is intended to provide a curated list of economically or politically significant, controversial, or otherwise newsworthy regulatory events. We exclude rules that are arcane, routine, or otherwise uncontroversial.

Navigating the Reg Tracker

The Search Bar

The search bar at the top of the tracker allows you to filter rules by the nature of action, policy area (category), and current status. We have also included a checkbox where you can choose whether to view rules from the Trump archive—rules that have not been updated since January 19, 2021. Finally, at the far right, there is a search function, which combs through both the headers and detail text of rules for a key word or phrase of your choosing.

The Rule Header

Reg Tracker rule header

For each rule, you will see the same header (an example of which is shown above). On the far left is a nickname for each rule or set of rules. You can then find information on the nature by which the rule was enacted (whether through agency rulemaking or some other process), relevant policy categories, the agency or agencies sponsoring the rule, and the current status of the rule. Lastly, the far-right column indicates the date that the entry was last updated by CRM staff.

Rule details

Reg Tracker rule details

Once you click on a rule, the entry will expand to give a more detailed summary. There will be a brief summary of the rule and then a more detailed overview. The overview is divided into two-to-four parts, based on the particular rule: background (which provides information on the current state of the policy the rule is changing), impact (which describes how the rule would change the policy), litigation (which details if any litigation on the rule is pending or resolved), and notes (where any other relevant information is listed). For regulations enacted through agency rulemaking, you will also see a timeline for each action under the rule heading that shows the dates that the rule was proposed, finalized, and effective (with links to relevant pages in the Federal Register). The color of the timeline indicates the administration involved at that part of the process, while the “arrow” or “X” indicates if the rule successfully progressed or was blocked. For executive orders, guidance documents, or other policies not passed through agency rulemaking, in place of the timeline will be a block of text indicating the type of regulatory action.

To subscribe to the Reg Tracker newsletter, click here. If you have questions, suggestions or feedback, we would love to hear from you! Email us at RegCenter@brookings.edu.

 

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