1. Why participate?

    Why should you participate? When you comment, the government has to listen. One good comment can change the outcome.

Most people don’t realize that everyone has a right to participate in rulemaking--and the agency has a responsibility to pay attention!

To create a new regulation (also called a "rule"), the agency must usually announce what it's proposing and tell people

  • what the agency is trying to do
  • why it has the legal authority to do this
  • what data, studies or other information it is using

The agency must give people time (usually, 60 days) to comment on its proposal. (For more details about the process, see What is rulemaking?)

Anyone can comment on the proposal or on the information the agency is using. You don’t even have to be a citizen or eligible to vote. The agency has to take public comments seriously. It must read them and think about them before making its final decision.

If the agency decides to go ahead with the new regulation (either as originally proposed or with some changes) it must explain its reasons. In this explanation, it has to

  • describe the comments it got
  • respond to serious questions or criticisms commenters had
  • talk about why it didn't follow suggestions or make other changes that commenters proposed

If someone sues the agency about the new regulation, the courts will look at the explanation to be sure the agency really did take the comments seriously. If not, the courts can send the rule back to the agency for more work.

So, rulemaking is one of the few government processes where a single individual can make a difference in what the federal government decides to do.

Making effective comments in a rulemaking takes work. See What is effective commenting? But if the agency is proposing something that really matters to you, then doing the work can be worth it. In the end, the agency may not make the decision you want it to. But it has to pay attention to what you think. And usually you will be able to tell from its explanation why it didn't go along with your ideas or position.

You have a voice in this process. Use it!

For more information on how what you say in RegulationRoom becomes part of the official public comments in the rulemaking, see What is RegulationRoom? and the FAQs.