Democracy Forward and a coalition of public interest organizations wrote to the General Services Administration (GSA) and the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) and requested that they address the reduced transparency of GSA’s website.

Democracy Forward was joined in this effort by Public Citizen, the Georgetown Law Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, the National Health Law Program, the National Center for Youth Law (NYCL), Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to address the reduced transparency of the site that was caused by the Trump administration’s revamp of it.

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“Transparency is critical to the development of good policy around vulnerable children,” said Seth Galanter, senior director at the National Center for Youth Law. “The Trump administration changes make it more difficult to learn who the government is hearing from and what they’re saying. These retrograde changes need to be fixed, and fixed quickly.”

The coalition says that the website is now underfunded, has a more difficult public-facing user experience, and lacks previously available functionality. The website weakens the public’s ability to engage with Federal agency proceedings and causes tension with the goals of the E-Government Act and Federal Information Policy Act. The coalition says that the site:

  • Makes finding e-dockets difficult;
  • Makes it harder to find and read submitted comments submitted on rules;
  • Doesn’t allow members of the public to easily sort through submitted comments;
  • No longer allows users to download comments in bulk to sort and manage them for themselves;
  • Eliminates the ability to sign up for docket alert emails; and
  • Increases difficulty for members of the public to use the website’s public API to sort data from for themselves.

“The Trump administration underfunded the redesign of Regulations.Gov and neglected to follow the government’s own Playbook to engage with the public and groups like ours that rely on the website,” said Democracy Forward Senior Counsel Samara Spence. “The result is a cumbersome public-facing user experience that makes access to agency rulemaking dockets more difficult. We urge GSA, with the help of USDS, to take immediate steps to ensure the public can reasonably participate in the rulemaking process on Regulations.Gov.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.