Why Comment On Proposed Regulations?

I like to say that administrative law is the most useful course that I didn't take in law school.  My service in California state government was my principal schooling in administrative law.  Since then, I have been fortunate to teach classes in administrative law at the University of California, Irvine. 

I have found the regulations can be a lot like the weather with everyone complaining but no one actually doing anything about it.  That is one reason that I routinely comment on proposed federal and state regulations.  I find that there are at least two benefits to commenting. 

First the administrative agency may actually consider and accept your comment.  For example, the SEC this week adopted amendments to its Freedom of Information Act Regulations.  I had submitted comments to the proposed regulations.  Although the SEC did not accept all of my comments, it did make some changes:

"In response to the commenter’s suggestion to remove from the definition of 'educational institution' the requirement that the records are sought to 'further scholarly research,' the Commission is deleting this language from the definition and is inserting language to clarify that the requester must show that the request is made in connection with the requester’s role at the educational institution and that the records are not sought for commercial or personal use."

Even when the agency rejects a comment, the effort may not be in vain.  The failure of an agency to address a comment may provide a basis a future rulemaking challenge.

"So, if you still complain about the weather,
Then why the devil don't you do something,"

Everyone Complains About the Weather, music by Sammy Fain, Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.