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 number of presidential documents since first week of 2019

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 8 to July 12, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,436 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 33,690 pages. The week’s Federal Register featured a total of 508 documents, including 405 notices, zero presidential documents, 54 proposed rules, and 49 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 1,118 pages for a year-to-date total of 32,758 pages. As of July 12, the 2019 total led the 2018 total by 932 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,203 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of July 12. 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.
 
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


Trump directs federal agencies to provide citizenship information; ends effort to add citizenship question to census

President Donald Trump (R) announced on July 11, 2019, that his administration would cease efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Instead, Trump stated that he would issue an executive order directing federal government agencies to provide citizenship information to the United States Department of Commerce.
 
“I am hereby ordering every department and agency in the federal government to provide the Department of Commerce with all requested records regarding the number of citizens and noncitizens in our country,” said Trump. “They must furnish all legally accessible records in their possession immediately. We will utilize these vast federal databases to gain a full, complete, and accurate count of the noncitizen population.”
 
Attorney General William Barr stated that the decision ended the ongoing litigation surrounding the citizenship question on the census.
 
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross approved the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census in March 2018, arguing that the question would improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The question asked, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
 
The question was blocked by lower courts on the grounds that it violated the Constitution’s Enumeration Clause and the Census Act. Lower courts argued that Trump administration officials had failed to follow proper administrative procedure under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
 
The United States Supreme Court on June 27 held 5-4 to both affirm the legality of a citizenship question on the census and remand the case, Department of Commerce v. New York, to the agency for review. The court ruled that the Trump administration’s decision to add the citizenship question to the census did not violate the Enumeration Clause or the Census Act. However, the court held that Ross’ rationale for adding the question to the census was inconsistent with the administrative record in violation of the APA.
 
The ruling curbed Ross’ exercise of delegated congressional authority by invoking an exception for evaluating agency decisions beyond the scope of the administrative record on a “strong showing of bad faith or improper behavior” drawn from the 1971 case Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe. The dissenting justices argued that the exception opens a new legal avenue for challengers to contest administrative actions based solely on pretext.
 


Federal Register weekly update; lowest weekly page total 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 1 to July 5, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,084 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 32,254 pages. The week’s Federal Register featured a total of 461 documents, including 340 notices, two presidential documents, 46 proposed rules, and 73 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 810 pages for a year-to-date total of 31,640 pages. As of July 5, the 2019 total led the 2018 total by 614 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,195 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of July 5. 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


Federal Register weekly update; 2019 year-to-date page total exceeds 2018 figure for first time

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 24 to June 28, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,800 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 31,170 pages. This week’s Federal Register featured a total of 618 documents, including 454 notices, four presidential documents, 61 proposed rules, and 73 final rules.
 
One proposed rule 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 1,396 pages for a year-to-date total of 30,830 pages. As of June 28, the 2019 total led the 2018 total by 340 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,199 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of June 28. 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


SCOTUS affirms legality of citizenship question; remands case to lower court for procedural review

The United States Supreme Court held 5-4 on June 27 to both affirm the legality of a citizenship question on the U.S. Census and remand Department of Commerce v. New York to the agency due to a lack of reasoned decision-making by Trump administration officials as required by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
 
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross approved the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census in March 2018, arguing that the question would improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The question was initially blocked by lower courts on the grounds that it violated the Constitution’s Enumeration Clause and the Census Act. Lower courts also held that Trump administration officials had failed to follow proper administrative procedure under APA.
 
The justices ruled that the Trump administration’s decision to add the citizenship question to the census did not violate the Enumeration Clause or the Census Act. The court held that Congress has delegated broad authority over the census to the Secretary of Commerce and that historical precedent demonstrated the secretary’s authority to inquire about citizenship on the census. Moreover, the court ruled that the secretary acted within the bounds of his discretionary authority in compliance with the Census Act.
 
However, the court found that Ross’ rationale for adding the question to the census was inconsistent with the administrative record. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion that supplemental information provided to the court after the litigation began undermined Ross’ Voting Rights Act defense and demonstrated “that the Secretary was determined to reinstate a citizenship question from the time he entered office … and adopted the Voting Rights Act rationale late in the process.”
 
The court remanded the case to the agency for further proceedings. Roberts wrote, “We do not hold that the agency decision here was substantively invalid. But agencies must pursue their goals reasonably. Reasoned decision-making under the Administrative Procedure Act calls for an explanation for agency action. What was provided here was more of a distraction.”
 
Opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part were filed by Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito.
 


Justice Department asks SCOTUS to consider equal protection claim in citizenship question case

The United States Department of Justice filed a request with the United States Supreme Court on June 25 asking the court to broaden the scope of Department of Commerce v. New York—a case challenging the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census—in order to consider new equal protection claims.
 
Plaintiffs in a separate pending challenge to the citizenship question, La Union del Pueblo Entero v. Ross, raised equal protection claims under the Fifth Amendment in light of new information derived from a deceased Republican consultant’s hard drive. The information, according to plaintiffs, suggests that the citizenship question was added in order to gain a Republican electoral advantage. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stated that he approved the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 census at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in order to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. 
 
Judge George Jarrod Hazel of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, who ruled against the citizenship question in La Union del Pueblo Entero v. Ross on constitutional and procedural grounds, issued an order on June 19 stating that the new evidence could warrant reconsideration of the case. On June 25, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit remanded the case for reconsideration by Hazel.
 
The Justice Department responded to the Fourth Circuit’s decision by requesting that the United States Supreme Court also consider the equal protection claim in Department of Commerce v. New York, which challenges the citizenship question on constitutional and procedural grounds. “The Fourth Circuit’s order underscores the need for this Court to address the equal protection claim … so that the lawfulness of the Secretary’s decision can be fully and finally resolved,” wrote Solicitor General Noel Fransisco.
 
The United States Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision in Department of Commerce v. New York by the end of June. If the court chooses not to consider the equal protection claim, Hazel could issue an injunction against the citizenship question in La Union del Pueblo Entero v. Ross on equal protection grounds and return the citizenship question challenge before the high court.
 


Federal Register weekly update; highest weekly final rule total of 2019

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 17 to June 21, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,464 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 29,370 pages. This week’s Federal Register featured a total of 616 documents, including 487 notices, three presidential documents, 36 proposed rules, and 90 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 1,284 pages for a year-to-date total of 29,434 pages. As of June 21, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 64 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,175 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of June 21. 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


District judge signals willingness to reconsider citizenship question challenge

Judge George Jarrod Hazel of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland issued an order on June 19, 2019, stating that new evidence from a deceased Republican consultant’s hard drive “raises a substantial issue” that could warrant reconsideration of a case challenging the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census.
 
Plaintiffs claim that the evidence demonstrates the Trump administration’s intent to add the citizenship question to the census in order to gain a Republican electoral advantage.
 
Hazel previously ruled against the citizenship question on procedural grounds in a consolidated case on April 5, 2019. The case is currently pending on appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. In order for Hazel to reconsider the case, the appellate court would need to return the case to the district court.
 
The United States Supreme Court is currently weighing a challenge to the citizenship question on procedural and constitutional grounds, _Department of Commerce v. New York_. A ruling is expected by the end of June.
 
If the new evidence motivates the district or appellate court to issue an injunction against the citizenship question on discrimination grounds, challengers could potentially return the case before the United States Supreme Court.
 


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.
 
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


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.
 
Additional reading:


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