Tagfederal government

OIRA reviewed 22 significant rules in April

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviewed a total of 22 significant regulatory actions issued by federal agencies in April 2021. The agency approved no rules without changes and approved the intent of 20 rules while recommending changes to their content. Two rules were subject to a statutory or judicial deadline.

OIRA reviewed 45 significant regulatory actions in April 2020, 44 significant regulatory actions in April 2019, 32 significant regulatory actions in April 2018, and seven significant regulatory actions in April 2017. During the Obama administration from 2009-2016, OIRA reviewed an average of 47 significant regulatory actions each April.

OIRA has reviewed a total of 198 significant rules in 2021. The agency reviewed a total of 676 significant rules in 2020, 475 significant rules in 2019, 355 significant rules in 2018, and 237 significant rules in 2017.

As of May 3, 2021, OIRA’s website listed 46 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. To view this project, visit: 

https://ballotpedia.org/Completed_OIRA_review_of_federal_administrative_agency_rules

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SCOTUS grants review in three new cases for its 2021-2022 term

The U.S. Supreme Court accepted three additional cases for review during its 2021-2022 term on April 26. With the addition of these three cases, the court has agreed to hear 14 cases during the term, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 4. 

Houston Community College System v. Wilson concerns free speech protections and limitations on an elected governing body’s authority to censure a member for their speech. The question presented to the court asks, “Does the First Amendment restrict the authority of an elected body to issue a censure resolution in response to a member’s speech?” The case originated from the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

United States v. Zubaydah concerns the state-secrets privilege. The question the court will decide is, “Whether the court of appeals erred when it rejected the United States’ assertion of the state-secrets privilege based on the court’s own assessment of potential harms to the national security, and required discovery to proceed further under 28 U.S.C. 1782(a) against former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractors on matters concerning alleged clandestine CIA activities.” Zubaydah came from the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Corlett concerns a person’s right to carry a firearm for self-defense under the Constitution’s Second Amendment. The question presented to the court is, “Whether the State’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment.” The case originated from the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments as part of its 2020-2021 term. Its April argument sitting began on April 19 and will conclude on April 28, with the court hearing 12 hours of oral argument during that period. The court is scheduled to hear one hour of oral argument during its May sitting on May 4.

As of April 22, the court had agreed to hear 62 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Five cases were removed from the argument calendar. Also as of April 22, the court had issued opinions in 30 cases this term. Six cases were decided without argument.

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Federal Register weekly update: 627 new documents added

Image of the south facade of the White House.

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 overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From April 19 through April 23, the Federal Register grew by 1,668 pages for a year-to-date total of 21,916 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 627 documents:

• 507 notices

• eight presidential documents

• 47 proposed rules

• 65 final rules

One proposed rule and one final rule, both concerning the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) debt collection practices, were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to 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. The Biden administration has issued 13 significant proposed rules and eight significant final rules as of April 23.

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 more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, April 27-May 1, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. 

Here are the policy changes that happened April 27-May 1, 2020. This list is not comprehensive. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, April 27, 2020:

Stay-at-home orders:

  • Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) allowed the statewide stay-at-home order to expire. He first enacted it on April 3. Mississippi’s stay-at-home order was the fourth to expire. Alaska ended its stay-at-home order first on April 24, while Montana and Colorado each ended theirs on April 26. 

Election changes:

  • The New York State Board of Elections canceled the Democratic presidential preference primary, which had been scheduled to take place on June 23, 2020.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Federal government responses:

  • President Trump (R) signed an executive order aimed at keeping meat processing plants open throughout the country. Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to designate meat processing plants as critical infrastructure.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

School closures:

  • Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) extended the statewide closure of schools to in-person instruction from April 30 to May 15.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Stay-at-home orders:

  • Stay-at-home orders in Texas, Tennessee, Idaho, Georgia, and Alabama expired. By this point, governors had lifted nine stay-at-home orders. Thirty-four stay-at-home orders remained in place.  

Friday, May 1, 2020

Travel restrictions

  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) announced he was ending the executive order requiring visitors from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and New Orleans to self-quarantine for two weeks.

School closures:

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that public, private, and collegiate schools would remain closed for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 15.
  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) announced that public schools would remain closed for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed indefinitely.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery



Federal Register weekly update: 1,366 pages added

Image of the south facade of the White House.

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 overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From April 12 through April 16, the Federal Register grew by 1,366 pages for a year-to-date total of 20,248 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 525 documents:

• 441 notices

• six presidential documents

• 49 proposed rules

• 29 final rules

One proposed rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration aiming to modify the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) was deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to 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. The Biden administration has issued 12 significant proposed rules and seven significant final rules as of April 16.

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 more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



Two Cabinet-level positions remain unfilled in Biden admin

All 15 of President Joe Biden’s (D) main Cabinet secretary nominees were confirmed 61 days after he took office.

At this point in President Barack Obama’s (D) presidency—82 days after his inauguration—he still had one vacant secretary post for the Department of Health and Human Services. President Donald Trump (R) had two: the secretaries of agriculture and labor.

In addition to the main 15 Cabinet secretaries, Biden has selected eight more positions requiring Senate confirmation to be Cabinet-level in his administration. Two of those positions are still un: director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Biden initially nominated Neera Tanden, the president of Center for American Progress, to serve as OMB director. She faced two hearings before the Senate committees on budget and homeland security and governmental affairs but never received a committee vote.

Two weeks after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and several key Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah)—said they would not support her confirmation, Tanden withdrew from consideration on March 2, 2021. Biden has not yet named a replacement nominee. OMB Deputy Director Shalanda Young is the acting director of the agency.

Biden formally nominated Eric Lander for OSTP director on Jan. 20. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has not yet scheduled his confirmation hearing. If Lander is confirmed, it will be the first time a presidential science advisor is in the president’s Cabinet.

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Representative Alcee Hastings dies from pancreatic cancer

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) died from pancreatic cancer on April 6. He was first elected to Florida’s 23rd Congressional District in 1992 and represented it until it was redistricted as District 20 in 2012. Hastings was first elected from the 20th District in 2012. In last year’s general elections, Hastings defeated Greg Musselwhite (R), 79% to 21%.

Before being elected to Congress, Hastings was a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida from 1979 until 1989. In 1989, the U.S. Senate tried Hastings on 17 counts of perjury and bribery, finding him guilty on eight counts. The Senate voted to remove Hastings from that judgeship, but he was not disqualified from holding office in the future.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will set a date for a special election to fill this vacancy. As of April 6, five special elections to the 117th Congress have been scheduled in the following districts:

  1. Louisiana’s 2nd and 5th Districts,
  2. New Mexico’s 1st District,
  3. Texas’ 6th District, and
  4. Ohio’s 11th District.

With Hastings’ death, the current partisan breakdown of the U.S. House is 218 Democrats, 211 Republicans, and six vacancies.   

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Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for March 2021

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies to all United States Article III federal courts from March 1 to April 1. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

Vacancies: There have been five new judicial vacancies since the February 2021 report. There are 69 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 73 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

Nominations: There were 10 new nominations since the February 2021 report.

Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations since the February 2021 report.

New vacancies

There were 69 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 7.9.

• The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court does not have any vacancies.

• Seven (3.9%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions are vacant.

• 61 (9.1%) of the 673 U.S. District Court positions are vacant.*

• One (11.1%) of the nine U.S. Court of International Trade positions is vacant.

*District court count does not include territorial courts.

Five judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, vacancies must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

• Judge Peter Hall assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.*

• Judge Merrick Garland retired from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

• Judge Mary Briscoe assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

• Judge Darnell Jones assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

• Judge Anthony J. Battaglia assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

*Judge Hall’s service ended upon his death seven days after assuming senior status.

U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

File:US Court of Appeals vacancies 040121.png

The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) and as of April 1.

File:UUbHy-court-of-appeals-vacancies-biden-inauguration-.png
File:T7YhD-court-of-appeals-vacancies-april-1-2021-.png

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced 10 new nominations since the February 2021 report.

New confirmations

As of April 1, there have been no federal judicial confirmations during the Biden administration.

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Federal Register weekly update: One new significant final rule on drug listing regulations

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.

From March 29 through April 2—the eleventh week of the Biden administration—the Federal Register grew by 1,210 pages for a year-to-date total of 17,492 pages. During the same period of the Trump administration in 2017, the Federal Register grew by 996 pages for a year-to-date total of 17,096 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 546 documents:

• 416 notices

• four presidential documents

• 66 proposed rules

• 60 final rules

One final rule from the Food and Drug Administration regarding drug listing regulations was deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to 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. The Biden administration has issued 10 significant proposed rules and six significant final rules as of April 2.

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 more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



OIRA reviewed 28 significant rules in March

Image of the south facade of the White House.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviewed a total of 28 significant regulatory actions issued by federal agencies in March 2021. The agency approved three rules without changes and approved the intent of 25 rules while recommending changes to their content.

OIRA reviewed 41 significant regulatory actions in March 2020, 27 significant regulatory actions in March 2019, 19 significant regulatory actions in March 2018, and one significant regulatory actions in March 2017. During the Obama administration from 2009-2016, OIRA reviewed an average of 42 significant regulatory actions each March.

OIRA has reviewed a total of 176 significant rules in 2021. The agency reviewed a total of 676 significant rules in 2020, 475 significant rules in 2019, 355 significant rules in 2018, and 237 significant rules in 2017.

As of April 1, 2021, OIRA’s website listed 32 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. To view this project, visit: 

https://ballotpedia.org/Completed_OIRA_review_of_federal_administrative_agency_rules

Additional reading: