Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs / OIRA
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA, pronounced “oh-eye-ruh”) is a federal office established by Congress in the 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act. It is part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is an agency within the Executive Office of the President. It is staffed by both political appointees and career civil servants.
Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (Pub. L. No. 96-511, 94 Stat. 2812, Dec. 11, 1980, 44 U.S.C. § 3501 et seq.), OIRA reviews all collections of information by the federal government. OIRA also develops and oversees the implementation of government-wide policies in several areas, including information quality and statistical standards. In addition, OIRA reviews draft regulations under Executive Order 12866.
The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 created the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Executive Order 12291, issued by President Reagan in 1981, gave OIRA the responsibility to review the substance of agencies’ regulatory actions before publication in the Federal Register. The office’s regulatory review role was initially highly controversial, and it has been criticized at different times as being both too active and too passive regarding agencies’ rules. Although OIRA has a number of specific statutory responsibilities (e.g., paperwork review and regulatory accounting), as a component of OMB it is part of the Executive Office of the President, and helps ensure that covered agencies’ rules reflect the President’s policies and priorities.
The Executive Branch and the Regulatory State [Showcase III]
OIRA’s current regulatory review responsibilities are detailed in Executive Order 12866, which was issued by President Clinton in 1993. The office reviews significant draft rules from agencies (other than independent regulatory agencies) at both the proposed and final rulemaking stages, and also informally reviews certain rules before they are formally submitted. For rules that are “economically significant” (most commonly defined as those having a $100 million impact on the economy), OIRA also reviews the economic analyses. Since 1994, OIRA has reviewed between 500 and 700 significant proposed and final rules each year, and can clear the rules with or without changes, return the rules to the agencies for reconsideration, or encourage the agencies to withdraw them. The executive order also requires OIRA or the rulemaking agencies to disclose certain elements of the review process to the public, including the changes made at OIRA’s recommendation. A September 2003 report by the General Accounting Office indicated that OIRA had a significant effect on more than a third of the 85 rules in the study, but OIRA’s most common effect was to suggest changes to explanatory language in the preambles to the rules. At the start of the George W. Bush Administration, OIRA made a number of changes to its review process, including increased use of return letters, added emphasis on economic analysis to support the rules, and improvements in the transparency of the office’s review process. Overall, in contrast to the “counselor” role it played during the Clinton Administration, OIRA appeared to have returned to the “gatekeeper” role that it had during its first 12 years of existence. An April 2009 report by GAO again noted changes made to rules at OIRA’s suggestion.
Also see: The Congressional Review Act (CRA) (CongressionalGlossary.com); Committee Veto / Congressional Veto; Office of Management and Budget / OMB; Rules; § 8.40 Congress and the Executive: Rulemaking, in Congressional Deskbook.
Accountability and Transparency Reform at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
- Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)
- RegInfo – OIRA
- Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (CRE)
- Executive Order 12866 of September 30, 1993: Regulatory Planning and Review (10-page PDF)
- “Federal Rulemaking: The Role of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs,” CRS Report RL32397 (37-page PDF)
- “The Role of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in Federal Rulemaking,” by Curtis W. Copeland, Fordham Urban Law Journal, Volume 33, Issue 4, 2005 (56-page PDF)
- “Federal Regulatory Reform: An Overview,” CRS Report RL32356 (55-page PDF)
- “The Federal Rulemaking Process: An Overview,” CRS Report RL32240 (41-page PDF)
- “Counting Regulations: An Overview of Rulemaking, Types of Federal Regulations, and Pages in the Federal Register,” CRS Report R43056 (26-page PDF)
- “Changes to the OMB Regulatory Review Process by Executive Order 13422,” CRS Report RL33862 (21-page PDF)
- “Rulemaking: OMB’s Role in Reviews of Agencies’ Draft Rules and the Transparency of Those Reviews,” GAO-03-929, September 22, 2003 – GAO
- “Regulatory Management: Implementation of Selected OMB Responsibilities Under the Paperwork Reduction Act,” GAO/GGD-98-120, July 9, 1998 – FDsys
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