May 8, 2002 4:30 PM PDT

Web site to put gov't rules under one roof

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The U.S. government is developing a Web portal that would give citizens one access point to read up on and comment on federal rules and regulations from multiple agencies.

The Online Rulemaking Initiative is part of the Office of Management and Budget's 24-step eGovernment Initiative. The new site is scheduled to be ready by Dec. 31.

"Millions of Americans want to easily find and comment on proposed regulation," Mark Forman, the OMB's associate director for technology and e-government, wrote in a memo to the heads of federal agencies this week. "This action means that by the end of the year, the public will no longer need to navigate through a sea of agency Web sites to comment on regulations that will impact their lives."

Forty-two million Americans looked up federal regulations over the Internet last year, and 23 million submitted comments on proposed rules, regulations and policies, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, an organization that creates and funds research about the effect of the Internet.

Citizens currently must first determine which agency is responsible for the rule they are interested in and then find out how those agencies will accept comment; some only accept comments in writing. The new Web site will provide a central database where citizens can figure out what agency they need to deal with and send their comments electronically.

The Rulemaking Initiative will also try to save money by consolidating back-end information technology services. Over the next 18 months, the government will spend more than $70 million on "rulemaking" Web sites, Forman said in his memo.

The OMB has already identified several potentially redundant systems, in agencies including the departments of transportation, defense and labor and the Environmental Protection Agency. The government plans to spend nearly $28 million in those systems this year and more than $32 million next year, according to a memo from OMB Director Mitchell Daniels.

The Department of Transportation is working with the OMB to develop a business plan that will include an assessment of the current systems in place. Plans also call for the e-docket system of the Federal Register, where all government regulations are published, to be integrated with FirstGov.com, a Web portal for online government transactions, services and information.

 

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