Author

Caitlin Styrsky

Caitlin Styrsky is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at caitlin.styrsky@ballotpedia.org

Federal Register weekly update; highest weekly page total of Trump administration to-date

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.
 
During the week of August 12 to August 16, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 3,076 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 42,798 pages. The week’s Federal Register featured a total of 527 documents, including 405 notices, one presidential document, 52 proposed rules, and 69 final rules.
 
One proposed rule and two final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they may have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules.
 
During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 2,146 pages for a year-to-date total of 42,016 pages. As of August 16, the 2019 total led the 2018 total by 782 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,297 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of August 16. Over the course of 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. During the Obama administration, the Federal Register increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
 
According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
 
Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service finalizes regulatory changes under Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) issued three final rules on Monday affecting the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The rules concern interagency cooperation, the classification of threatened and endangered species, the listing and removal of endangered species, and critical habitat designations, among other processes.
 
The first rule change aims to clarify the ESA’s interagency cooperation procedures between FWS, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
 
The second rule change eliminates automatic protections for threatened species that mirror those for endangered species. Instead, FWS will determine the level of protection for threatened species on a case-by-case basis.
 
The final rule change addresses the listing and removal of endangered species and critical habitat designations, among other process changes. The rule allows agency officials to consider economic factors in listing decisions and interpret the language “foreseeable future” under the ESA as a time period in which agency officials can reasonably determine likely threats to a species. The rule also puts forth changes to the critical habitat designation process, including a requirement that species must occupy critical habitats unless unoccupied areas are essential for species conservation. This change aims to address the United States Supreme Court’s November 2018 decision in _Weyerhaeuser Company v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service_, which held in part that an area must be a habitat before it can meet the narrower category of critical habitat.
 
The Trump administration argued that the rule changes reduce the regulatory burden on the public and increase transparency into agency decision making concerning species’ protections. Opponents of the rules claim that the changes reduce protections for endangered species and limit the consideration of potential future threats in agency decision making.
 
The attorneys general of California and Massachusetts announced their intention on Monday to sue the Trump administration over the rule changes.
 


DOJ moves to decertify union for immigration judges

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on August 9 that it is petitioning the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to decertify the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ)—the federal labor union representing immigration judges.
 
Immigration judges are a type of federal administrative adjudicator employed by the DOJ to preside over special classes of administrative adjudication proceedings pertaining to immigration, including removal proceedings. The department employed 424 immigration judges as of May 2019. Though IJs and other types of administrative judges have the word judge in their job title, they are part of the executive rather than the judicial branch. They are not judges as described in Article III of the U.S. Constitution.
 
DOJ claims that immigration judges are management officials and, therefore, cannot legally participate in collective bargaining activities. Federal law defines management officials as “any individual employed by an agency in a position the duties and responsibilities of which require or authorize the individual to formulate, determine, or influence the policies of the agency.”
 
Decertification of the NAIJ could give DOJ officials more control over the work schedules and caseloads of immigration judges.
 
The department instituted a quota of 700 cases per year for immigration judges in March 2018. DOJ officials called for increased funding to hire an additional 100 immigration judges and support staff in its 2020 budget request. Immigration judges faced a backlog of 892,000 cases as of May 2019.
 


Federal Register weekly update; highest weekly page total since June

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.
 
During the week of August 5 to August 9, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,768 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 39,722 pages. The week’s Federal Register featured a total of 525 documents, including 414 notices, five presidential documents, 39 proposed rules, and 67 final rules.
 
One final rule was deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that it may have a large impact on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules.
 
During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,626 pages for a year-to-date total of 39,870 pages. As of August 9, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 148 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,241 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of August 9. Over the course of 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. During the Obama administration, the Federal Register increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
 
According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
 
Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.


July 2019 OIRA review count; highest monthly OIRA review count of Trump administration to-date

In July 2019, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviewed 51 significant regulatory actions issued by federal agencies. The agency approved one rule without changes and approved the intent of 45 rules while recommending changes to their content. Five rules were withdrawn from the review process.
 
OIRA reviewed 36 significant regulatory actions in July 2018—15 fewer rules than the 51 significant regulatory actions reviewed by the agency in July 2019. During the Obama administration from 2009-2016, OIRA reviewed an average of 53 significant regulatory actions each July.
 
OIRA has reviewed a total of 235 significant rules so far in 2019. The agency reviewed a total of 355 significant rules in 2018 and 237 significant rules in 2017.
 
As of August 8, 2019, OIRA’s website listed 120 regulatory actions under review.
 
OIRA is responsible for reviewing and coordinating what it deems to be all significant regulatory actions made by federal agencies, with the exception of independent federal agencies. Significant regulatory actions include agency rules that have had or may have a large impact on the economy, environment, public health, or state and local governments and communities. These regulatory actions may also conflict with other regulations or with the priorities of the president.
 
Every month, Ballotpedia compiles information about regulatory reviews conducted by OIRA. Click the link below to view this project.
 


Federal Register weekly update; 2019 page total falls behind year-to-date 2018 page total from Caitlin Styrsky

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.
 
During the week of July 29 to August 2, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,500 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 37,954 pages. The week’s Federal Register featured a total of 619 documents, including 488 notices, five presidential documents, 60 proposed rules, and 66 final rules.
 
Two proposed rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they may have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules.
 
During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,846 pages for a year-to-date total of 38,244 pages. As of August 2, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 290 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,224 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of August 2. Over the course of 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. During the Obama administration, the Federal Register increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
 
According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
 
Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.
 
Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2016: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2016


Congress has considered at least 10 Trump administration executive branch reorganization proposals in past year

The Trump administration on June 30 released a one-year update on the status of the administration’s executive branch reorganization plan.
 
The reorganization plan—released in June 2018 pursuant to Executive Order 13871—seeks to improve alignment between program administration and agency missions by consolidating and restructuring several agencies as well as shifting the administration of certain federal programs, such as the food stamps program, under different agencies. The full reorganization plan features 34 proposals aimed at aligning the core missions and responsibilities of executive agencies.
 
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimated that implementation of the full plan would take three to five years.
 
The one-year update included the following:
 
• Congress has considered at least 10 of the proposals through hearings, legislation, or discussions with members or staff.
• The Trump administration’s 2020 budget included all or part of 18 reorganization proposals.
• Agencies are implementing more than 20 of the proposals through existing authorities.
 
The president has the authority to reorganize federal agencies within existing statutory limits. However, Congress must delegate reorganization authority in order for the president to implement statutory changes to agencies. Once the president presents a reorganization plan to Congress, members must issue a resolution of approval in order for the plan to take effect.
 


Trump administration requests D.C. Circuit lift injunction blocking civil service executive orders

Trump administration officials asked the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to immediately lift the injunction blocking enforcement of President Trump’s (R) three civil service executive orders. Government attorneys argued that the injunction has created uncertainty and stalled collective bargaining negotiations between federal agencies and union groups.
 
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit unanimously reversed and vacated a lower court decision that had blocked provisions of three civil service executive orders issued by President Trump (R). The judges held in their July 16 ruling that the lower court did not have jurisdiction and that the plaintiffs—a coalition of union groups—should have brought the case before the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) as required by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS).
 
Plaintiffs have a 45-day grace period to request a rehearing in the case before the injunction is lifted. Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, stated on July 24 stated that the plaintiffs plan to seek a rehearing before the full D.C. Circuit.
 


Federal Register weekly update; highest weekly number of significant regulatory actions since May

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.
 
During the week of July 22 to July 26, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,452 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 36,454 pages. The week’s Federal Register featured a total of 486 documents, including 367 notices, 10 presidential documents, 43 proposed rules, and 66 final rules.
 
Three proposed rules and one final rule were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they may have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules.
 
During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,646 pages for a year-to-date total of 36,398 pages. As of July 26, the 2019 total led the 2018 total by 56 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,215 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of July 26. Over the course of 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. During the Obama administration, the Federal Register increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
 
According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
 
Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.
 
Additional reading:
Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2016: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2016


D.C. Circuit reverses district court ruling that blocked Trump’s civil service executive orders

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday unanimously reversed and vacated a lower court decision that blocked provisions of President Donald Trump’s (R) three civil service executive orders.
 
President Trump issued the civil service executive orders (E.O. 13837, E.O. 13836, and E.O.13839) in May 2018. The orders include proposals aimed at facilitating the removal of poor-performing federal employees and streamlining collective bargaining procedures.
 
The judges held that the lower court did not have jurisdiction to rule on the merits of the executive orders and that the plaintiffs should have brought the case before the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) as required by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS).
 
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and sixteen other federal labor unions challenged the executive orders in four consolidated lawsuits. The unions argued that the president does not have the authority to issue executive orders impacting labor relations; that the executive orders violate the Constitution’s Take Care Clause and the First Amendment right to freedom of association; and that the executive orders violate provisions of the FSLMRS.
 
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia held in August 2018 that the district court had jurisdiction over the case. Jackson upheld the president’s authority to issue executive orders in the field of labor relations, but enjoined Trump administration officials from implementing nine provisions of the executive orders that she claimed unlawfully restricted the use of union official time in violation of the FSLMRS.
 
The D.C. Circuit panel reversed Jackson’s ruling, stating that “the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The unions must pursue their claims through the scheme established by the Statute, which provides for administrative review by the FLRA followed by judicial review in the courts of appeals.”
 
Should the plaintiffs choose to appeal the decision, they can seek a rehearing before the full D.C. Circuit or appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court.
 


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