Regulatory Democracy Reconsidered: The Policy Impact of Public Participation Requirements

Paper by Neal D. Woods in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory :  “A broad range of procedural mechanisms designed to promote public involvement in regulatory decision making have been instituted at all levels of government. Depending upon the literature one consults, one could conclude that these procedures (1) enhance regulatory stringency by fostering access by previously underrepresented groups, (2) reduce regulatory stringency by institutionalizing access by regulated industries, (3) could either increase or decrease stringency depending on the relative strength of organized interests in the agency’s external environment, or (4) have no effect. This study investigates whether mechanisms designed to promote public involvement in administrative rulemaking affect the stringency of US state environmental regulation. The results suggest that requirements to provide public notice of agency rulemaking do not have a significant effect on the regulatory compliance costs imposed on industry, but mechanisms that provide direct access to rulemaking processes serve to decrease these costs. This effect is evident for access both to the agencies promulgating environmental regulations and to external entities reviewing these regulations. For promulgating agencies, the effect does not appear to be conditional on the relative power of societal interests. The results provide some evidence, however, that political officials respond to the strength of environmental and industry groups when reviewing agency regulations.”