Regulations On and Of the Web

Despite the dire tone set by this article posted to Slashdot today, it looks like the FEC had a rare governmental attack of common sense and decided to re-word its proposed regulation of on-line political adds to remove language that would have made nearly every blog, web forum, and aggregator that touched political issues into a regulated entity. In this article, FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub makes it clear that the FEC wants to take a ‘hands-off’ approach, extending regulations only to online sites and newsletters that are explicitly funded by money from candidates. The earlier form of the regulation which the RedState article dissected seems to have been taken off the table. Still, better safe than sorry. When the proposed form of the regulation is released (likely sometime in April), you’ll be able to read it and submit comments here. It would be a good idea to ‘check up’ on the FEC and make sure that nobody in the back office tries to sneak something unpleasant in through the back door.

On a semi-related note, take a look at some of the other proposed regulations that you can view and comment in at Regulations.gov. You can view and comment on regulations under consideration from the Federal government’s various regulatory bodies: EPA, FAA, DOT, etc. Among the regulations under consideration right now:

  • A regulation to permanently exclude certain minor pollution sources (including dry cleaners, chromium electroplaters, and secondary aluminum producers) from some Clean Air Act licensing provisions
  • A proposal to make entities that make applications to the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service pay the cost of processing their own application, instead of passing the cost to the general public.
  • Proposed catch quotas for shark fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and North Atlantic.

There has been a great deal of regulatory restructuring under the present administration. A lot of major changes have quietly been made, particularly to provisions of the environmental protection laws that were disliked by major industries; for an example take a look at this piece, explaining how the administration has nearly dismantled the ‘New Source Review’ regulations of the Clean Air Act. Regulations.gov provides a great opportunity to take a look at important pieces of regulation when they are still ‘in the pipe’ and not yet carrying the weight of law. While many of the issues require a specialized background to understand (while I’ve heard overfishing is a problem for many species, I have no background to judge what are ‘appropriate levels’ of fishing for coastal shark populations, for instance), others can be understood with just a little research, and, if nothing else, the more publicity these regulations get, the more likely it is that someone with the appropriate background will take a look and see something important.

Edit: If you’d like to read the excellent New York Times article on New Source Review without forking over some cash, check out this archived copy.

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