November 20, 2020: Your Quick Guide to the Federal Register

Our democracy was founded on Abraham Lincoln’s assertion that the government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people. In keeping with this proclamation, every business day, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) publishes the Federal Register (FR) to let the fine citizens of the United States know what the government is up to.
Why is this important to you? Your business is regulated by quite a few Agencies. At a minimum, this typically includes the Department of Transportation (DOT), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The FR announces public meetings, the availability of documents, and report results. It also contains:

  • Advanced notices of proposed rulemakings (ANPRM). This is used by an Agency to begin the rulemaking process. It is a formal invitation for potentially affected stakeholders to comment and provide data.
  • Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). This announcement will alert you to an Agency’s intent to move forward with a new regulation or modify or delete an existing regulation if no significant adverse response is received by affected parties. It’s your heads-up as to what’s coming and your chance to submit comments for or against the proposal.
  • Notice of a final rulemaking. The agency must base its conclusions on the comments, scientific data, expert opinions, and other facts collected earlier in the process to craft the wording of the final rule. The final rule usually includes:
    • A preamble. When a regulation seems ambiguous or confusing, the preamble can help you understand the intent behind it.
    • A summary discussing pertinent information and concerns.
    • Supplementary information addressing the basis and purpose of the rule.
    • An effective date. Once a final rule is announced in the FR, you generally must adhere to it as of the effective date. It will be codified and the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) will be updated.

NAVA maintains a user-friendly website at https://www.federalregister.gov/ where you can search documents back to 1994. A Federal Register citation is in the form of volume, page number and date. Here is an example:
85 FR 47465, Wednesday, August 5, 2020
(In this example, you would search for 85 FR 47465 and the site will take you right to the correct page). They also provide easy access to the current day’s publication.
Visit https://www.federalregister.gov/index/2020 to see an index of all documents for 2020. From there you can select earlier years from a drop-down box. (Tip: The DOT is listed under “T” for Transportation Department, and each DOT agency is then nested below that heading in alphabetical order.)


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