Another Disturbing Consequence of the Shutdown: Comment Period Extensions

November 1, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

shadow-of-a-streetlight-1195186-mHalloween may be over, but the creepy shadow of last month’s federal government shutdown continues to linger. If you check the Federal Register on a daily basis like I do, you really get a better idea of how it disrupted the nation’s business.

For example, if one were to scan the Table of Contents of the Federal Register on a “typical day” (although there is no such thing as a truly typical day), you’d find that there generally are more than 200 entries, including notices, proposed rules, interim rules and final rules. True, many of these are duplicates, but it gives you an idea how many issuances federal agencies release in a single day. During the government shutdown, however, there were days when there were only 11 entries in the table of contents. Eleven!

Now that the shutdown is over, there is a new phenomenon — comment period extensions. For example, in today’s Federal Register, the Rural Housing Service extended the comment period for the proposed rule, “Single Family Housing Direct Loan Program,” from Oct. 22, 2013, to Nov. 22, 2013. “Due to the lapse in federal funding that caused a partial closing of federal government operations from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16, 2013, RHS is extending the public comment period for its proposed rule to create a certified loan application packaging process, originally published on Aug. 23, 2013, to Nov. 22, 2013,” RHS says in the notice.

I have observed other instances in the past few days of similar comment period extensions of other federal agency actions. On Wednesday, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued new deadlines for the public to submit input on several draft documents related to the National Environmental Policy Act because of the federal government shutdown.

It’s one thing to extend the comment period on a proposed rule or public document if more time is needed to gather appropriate responses. It’s another when the extension could’ve been avoided in the first place. One can only wonder what other headaches we’ll find down the road that were caused by the needless shutdown.

 Let us know how you feel about these extensions. Are we being too critical or is this a legitimate beef?



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