An 80-year-old law that requires the Government Printing Office (GPO) to print thousands of paper copies of the Federal Register every week day may finally be updated to reflect modern electronic communication and storage technologies as part of a bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 14. The Federal Register Modernization Act (H.R. 4195) replaces a statutory requirement to print the Federal Register with a requirement to publish, which it defines as “circulate or distribute.”
The legislation also eliminates a requirement that federal agencies must submit to the Federal Register the original version of an official document and two copies. Currently, agencies meet this requirement by submitting multiple electronic copies on various storage devices. Enactment of the legislation will allow agencies to submit a single electronic document.
The Federal Register is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents. Although a print version is required by law, it has been published electronically since June 8, 1994.
In a November 2013 letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), U.S. Archivist David Ferriero requested the statutory change “to take advantage of modern technology to improve efficiency.” The legislative changes will allow the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) to “increase interaction with the public and improve interoperability with other federal systems dealing with agency rulemaking,’’ Ferriero said.
OFR operates as part of the National Archives and Records Administration, which has a statutory partnership with the GPO to provide Federal Register publications and services to the public under the Federal Register Act. OFR and GPO also jointly administer the FederalRegister.Gov website.
The legislation is likely to be passed by the Senate without controversy, either during a two-week legislative session in September or during an anticipated lame duck session following the November elections. The bill has bipartisan support and was passed by the House unanimously by a vote of 386-0.