Author

Caitlin Styrsky

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

Federal Register weekly update; lowest weekly proposed rule total since April

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 June 10 to June 14, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,168 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 27,906 pages. This week’s Federal Register featured a total of 533 documents, including 447 notices, seven presidential documents, 36 proposed rules, and 43 final rules.
 
One proposed 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 1,318 pages for a year-to-date total of 28,150 pages. As of June 14, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 244 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,163 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of June 14. 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.
 
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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


House committee holds Trump officials in contempt for refusal to release citizenship question documents

The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted 24-15 on June 12, 2019, to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas requesting documents related to the decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
 
The vote occurred hours after President Trump blocked the committee’s access to the documents by asserting executive privilege at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice.
 
A Justice Department spokeswoman responded to the vote, stating that the department had already disclosed 17,000 documents.
 
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross approved the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census in March, prompting a series of legal challenges. The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a consolidated case challenging the question, Department of Commerce v. New York, on April 23, 2019. A decision is expected by the end of the month.
 
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Federal Register weekly update; 2019 page total continues to trail 2018 page total

 
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 June 3 to June 7, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,246 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 26,738 pages. This week’s Federal Register featured a total of 588 documents, including 484 notices, seven presidential documents, 41 proposed rules, and 56 final rules.
 
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 1,288 pages for a year-to-date total of 26,832 pages. As of June 7, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 94 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,215 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of June 7. 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.
 
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


Judge delays action on new citizenship question challenge until after SCOTUS ruling

Judge Jesse Furman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on June 5, 2019, declined to amend the record in Department of Commerce v. New York to bring new evidence alleging contradictory testimony by Trump administration officials before the United States Supreme Court as the court considers the case.
 
Attorneys for plaintiffs in the case sent a letter to Furman on May 30, 2019, to highlight new evidence retrieved from the hard drive of a deceased Republican political consultant allegedly demonstrating that the Trump administration approved the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census in order to gain a Republican electoral advantage. The letter called for Furman to consider issuing sanctions or penalties in response to what the plaintiffs consider to be the misleading testimony of administration officials, who argued that the administration added the citizenship question to the census in order to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.
 
Though Furman described the allegations as serious, he stated that he no longer had jurisdiction over the case and did not want to act in a manner that would appear as though he were attempting to influence the United States Supreme Court justices. He also observed that the United States Supreme Court’s decision could potentially help resolve the new claims.
 
Furman stated that he would not rule on the merits of sanctions against Trump administration officials until the United States Supreme Court issued its decision, which is expected by the end of June. Instead, he set dates in July and August for the submission of written arguments.
 


Texas governor to extend plumbing oversight through executive authority

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) announced via Twitter on Tuesday that the governor’s office had the authority to continue the existence of the Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners for two years without the need for a special legislative session.
 
Some groups of Texas plumbers asked Abbott to call a special legislative session to address plumbing oversight after the Texas State Legislature failed to approve sunset review legislation last month that would have continued regulatory oversight of plumbers in the state. Lawmakers disagreed over the sunset bill’s proposal to move the responsibilities of the plumbing board under the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Supporters of the bill argued that the move would improve efficiency, such as reducing the state’s eight-month processing period for issuing a plumbing license. Opponents claimed that the lengthy licensing period and other alleged inefficiencies of the plumbing board served to protect public health and safety in a specialized industry.
 
Without Abbott’s extension, the legislative inaction would result in the expiration of the state’s plumbing code on September 1, 2019, and the end of plumbing board operations by September 2020. Abbott’s announcement did not specify how he would extend the life of plumbing regulation in the state.
 


May 2019 OIRA review count; second-highest monthly review count of 2019

In May 2019, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviewed 36 significant regulatory actions issued by federal agencies. The agency approved the intent of 34 rules while recommending changes to their content. Agencies withdrew two rules from the review process.
 
OIRA reviewed 22 significant regulatory actions in May 2018—14 fewer rules than the 36 significant regulatory actions reviewed by the agency in May 2019. During the Obama administration from 2009-2016, OIRA reviewed an average of 46 significant regulatory actions each May.
 
OIRA has reviewed a total of 147 rules so far in 2019. The agency reviewed a total of 355 significant rules in 2018 and 237 significant rules in 2017.
 
As of June 3, 2019, OIRA’s website listed 113 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 may conflict with other regulations or with the priorities of the president.
 


Deceased consultant’s hard drive prompts new challenge in census citizenship question case

Attorneys for plaintiffs in Department of Commerce v. New York sent a letter to Judge Jesse Furman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on May 30, 2019, to highlight new evidence allegedly demonstrating that the Trump administration approved the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census in order to gain a Republican electoral advantage.
 
The letter calls for Furman to consider issuing sanctions or penalties against the federal government in response to what the plaintiffs consider to be the misleading testimony of administration officials, who argued that the administration added the citizenship question to the census in order to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.
 
The plaintiffs allege that documents recovered from the hard drive of the late Republican political consultant Dr. Thomas Hofeller demonstrate his influence in drafting the citizenship question. The documents include a 2015 report by Hofeller concluding that a citizenship question would give Republicans an electoral advantage as well as texts that the plaintiffs claim shows Hofeller’s involvement as a ghostwriter on an early draft of the administration’s request to include the citizenship question on the census. These findings, according to the plaintiffs, contradict the sworn testimony of administration officials arguing that the administration included the citizenship question to support Voting Rights Act enforcement.
 
A Justice Department spokesperson denied the plaintiffs’ allegations, stating that Hoffeler’s study “played no role in the Department’s December 2017 request to reinstate a citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census. These unfounded allegations are an unfortunate last-ditch effort to derail the Supreme Court’s consideration of this case.”
 
Furman scheduled a hearing on June 5, 2019, to consider the groups’ request.
 
The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Department of Commerce v. New York on April 23, 2019. It was unclear as of June 3 whether the court would consider the new evidence in its decision, which is expected by the end of the month.
 


Federal Register weekly update; lowest weekly document total since January

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 May 27 to May 31, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,130 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 25,492 pages. This week’s Federal Register featured a total of 432 documents, including 347 notices, four presidential documents, 40 proposed rules, and 41 final rules.
 
One proposed 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 1,148 pages. As of May 31, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 52 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,159 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of May 31. In 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. Over the course of 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.
 
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


Texas plumbing code and oversight board set to expire

The Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners and the state’s plumbing regulations will cease to exist after the Texas State Legislature on Sunday failed to approve associated sunset review legislation. The state’s plumbing code will expire on September 1, 2019, and the board will wind down operations by September 2020.
 
The sunset bill—a type of legislation that establishes a date on which an agency or law will expire without specific legislative action—proposed to move the responsibilities of the plumbing board under the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Lawmakers in support of the bill argued that the move would improve efficiency, such as reducing the state’s eight-month processing period for issuing a plumbing license. Opponents claimed that the lengthy licensing period and other alleged inefficiencies functioned to protect public health and safety in a specialized industry.
 
Some plumbers in Texas have asked Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) to call a special legislative session to address plumbing oversight. Abbott had not responded to requests for comment on the issue as of May 29. In the absence of a state plumbing code, municipal plumbing codes will govern plumbing oversight at the local level.
 


Federal Register weekly update; 2019 page total trails 2018 total by 34 pages

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 May 20 to May 24, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,670 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 24,362 pages. This week’s Federal Register featured a total of 637 documents, including 503 notices, 11 presidential documents, 46 proposed rules, and 77 final rules.
 
One 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 1,048 pages. As of May 24, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 34 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,160 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of May 24. In 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. Over the course of 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 below 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


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