Evaluating Informational Inputs in Rulemaking Processes: A Multi-State Regulatory Analysis

Deserai Anderson Crow

The rulemaking process has become central to policymaking over the past several decades, with a large portion of regulatory authority delegated to administrative agencies (Kerwin & Furlong, 1992; Yackee, 2006). This is increasingly so in a federal system defined by political gridlock, wherein much of the policymaking occurs at the state and regulatory levels. Regulation consists of “an array of public policies explicitly designed to govern economic activity and its consequences at the level of the industry, firm, or individual unit of activity” (Eisner, Worsham, & Ringquist, 2000, p. 158). State-level bureaucratic agencies are not elected, and as a result, states have developed processes to incorporate input from regulated communities and other parties potentially affected by proposed regulations. Administrative agencies (Eisner et al., 2000) may encourage democratic practices to increase legitimacy and accountability of the bureaucracy and improve decision making processes (Jewell & Bero, 2007).

While the rulemaking process is an important avenue of policymaking, it remains unclear to what extent input from the regulated community, other interested parties, and the public influence the rulemaking process (Jewell & Bero, 2007). Some studies suggest that interest group comments influence and alter the content of regulations (Yackee, 2006), while others indicate less of an influence (Golden, 1998; West, 2004). At the federal level, organized interest groups often provide the bulk of comments during the rulemaking process, with more comments from the business sector (Cheit, 1990; Golden, 1998; Montini, Mangurian, & Bero, 2002), although some studies argue business interests do not unduly influence the rulemaking process (Cropper, Evans, Berardi, Dulca-Soares, & Portney, 1992; Golden, 1998; Nixon, Howard, & DeWitt, 2002). It has been shown that citizens may also effectively influence the rulemaking process (Cuellar, 2005; Layzer, 2012). Cuellar (2005) found that in the realm of federal financial privacy, federal campaign finance, and federal nuclear regulations, private citizens provided the bulk of input during comment periods. As the bulk of the studies on the influence of comments during the rulemaking process have focused on the federal level, the effect of input in state-level rulemaking processes remains markedly unclear. In addition to the content and amount of input received during the rulemaking process, the distribution of resources among interest groups (Furlong, 1997), the level of conflict among commenters (Golden, 1998), coalition formation (Furlong, 1997), and the timing of the rulemaking process may all influence the formation of regulation.

This study analyzes the informational inputs and strategic actions of coalitions of actors within the regulatory context and the resulting regulatory outcomes. Scholars understand the resources of coalitions of actors to be important to influencing policy outcomes (Sabatier, 1999; Weible, 2008). The study proposed here investigates one such category of resources: information. Information that can influence policymaking in the regulatory context can include science and other expert-produced information, advocacy-oriented information, industry-focused information, or media-produced information (Crow & Stevens, 2012; Healy & Ascher, 1995; Korfmacher & Koontz, 2003; Layzer, 2012). Citizens can also, at times, produce effective information that can be influential to informing and influencing regulatory decisions (Layzer, 2012). Not only is the information itself a resource, used to inform and persuade, but also the strategy with which the information is used can be important to understand when studying coalitions of actors.

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