Rulemaking and the Public Comment Process
Ninth District Highlights
Published June 28, 2019 | June 2019 issue
One of the most common topics bankers discuss with me is the effect rules and regulations have on their institution’s operations. As a result, I thought it would be helpful to highlight the rulemaking and public comment process to raise awareness of how you can contribute to the making of a rule. As you will see in the article below, the public is welcome, and strongly encouraged, to offer their input and perspective. Every comment received is thoroughly read and evaluated prior to a rule becoming final. I urge you to familiarize yourself with the process in order to take advantage of your opportunity to provide input to rules that will affect you going forward.
When Congress enacts a law affecting the banking industry and directs one or more agencies to implement it, each agency must publish a statement of rulemaking authority in the Federal Register for all proposed and final rules in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. The purpose of this publication requirement is to notify the public and offer an opportunity to submit comments. This article is intended to provide information on how the rulemaking and public comment process works, why it is important, and where to find the necessary information to be informed participants.
Public input is a vital component of the rulemaking process, and the agencies welcome feedback as they consider whether the regulatory proposals help accomplish the intended goals. Bankers and others interested in the banking industry are encouraged to carefully review the proposals and voice their concerns, questions, and opinions through the Federal Register comment process.
All initial Federal Register notices are presented in four main sections:
- The Summary section provides a condensed version of the issues and actions under consideration. It also explains why the proposal is being published.
- The Dates section invites the public to comment on the proposal and establishes a deadline for comment submissions. Comment periods are often 60 days, but they could be longer or shorter, depending on the circumstances.
- The Addresses section contains instructions and options for submitting comments. The Board permits—and prefers—comments to be submitted electronically via email or their website. Electronic submissions allow the Board to review comments quickly and make them readily available to the public.
- The Supplementary Information section discusses the merits of the proposed solution, cites important data and other information used to develop the rule, and details the agencies’ choices and reasoning. In this section, the agencies list specific questions to which they are seeking replies but will also accept general comments on all aspects of the proposal.
The agencies make all submitted comments available for public consumption during and after the comment period on the Federal Register, their respective websites, or the www.regulations.gov website. Once the comment period ends, the agencies begin reviewing and preparing responses that will be summarized in the published final rule.
Input becomes reality
Section 205 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act of 2018 (EGRRCPA) instructed the banking agencies—the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Reserve Board—to issue a regulation implementing this specific portion of the law that is intended to reduce regulatory reporting burden on banks in preparing the FFIEC031/041/051 Call Reports. The agencies jointly published a proposal in the Federal Register on 9/28/2018. A total of 1,018 comments were received by the three agencies. These comments are being reviewed and will be addressed in the final rulemaking publication.
The agencies are not permitted to base their final decision on the number of comments in support of or against the rule. However, public commentary may contain persuasive new data or policy arguments that result in changes to the initial proposal. In all final rules published in the Federal Register, the agencies address the submitted comments, discuss changes to the initial proposal as appropriate, and announce the finalized rule.
From start to finish, the rulemaking process for a straightforward and noncomplex proposal can be completed in a few months. Not surprisingly, the process can be significantly longer for complex and/or controversial proposals.
Additional information can be found on the following websites: