Each and every American has the right to participate in the regulatory process through public notice and comment. The government, in turn, is required to receive those comments, seriously consider them, and respond in kind. Commenting is an important way to have your voice heard on specific issues and regulations. Effective and relevant comments provide regulators with information to help them improve their rules, and may even impose a legal obligation on the agency or lay the groundwork for future litigation if comments are ignored.
The Power of Public Comment
Results in better regulations. By speaking to unique situations that an agency was unaware of or hadn’t contemplated in its evaluation of the policy, you ensure legal requirements, facts, unintended consequences, and/or errors are not overlooked.
Acts as the ‘canary in the coal mine’. Commenting helps decision-makers determine the level of acceptance or resistance among the public. In this way, decision-makers can respond to people’s needs, grievances, and preferences before enacting a law or regulation is passed.
Crowdsources solutions. We all carry biases and no one can be an expert in every issue. Providing public comment is your chance to point out issues, share your expertise, offer alternatives and substitute language, and help decision-makers identify solutions they may not have initially considered.
Provides an opportunity to influence the outcome. It is often much easier to prevent a law or regulation from being enacted then trying to abolish or revise it later. Public comments are an effective tool to oppose ineffectual or harmful policies before they can negatively impact the community.
Lays the groundwork for litigation. Even if your comments do not end up changing the regulation, they help create the administrative record that a federal agency or decision-maker has to consider when finalizing a rule or regulation. Government agencies are required to consider public comments. If the agency has failed to adequately consider the comments it received, a judge may invalidate the rule.