CONGRESS/TRUMP EXECUTIVE ORDERS: “Departments and agencies (agencies) in the executive branch adopt regulations that impose legally binding requirements on the public even though, in our constitutional democracy, only Congress is vested with the legislative power. The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) generally requires agencies, in exercising that solemn responsibility, to engage in notice-and-comment rulemaking to provide public notice of proposed regulations under section 553 of title 5, United States Code, allow interested parties an opportunity to comment, consider and respond to significant comments, and publish final regulations in the Federal Register.

Agencies may clarify existing obligations through non binding guidance documents, which the APA exempts from notice-and-comment requirements. Yet agencies have sometimes used this authority inappropriately in attempts to regulate the public without following the rulemaking procedures of the APA. Even when accompanied by a disclaimer that it is non-binding, a guidance document issued by an agency may carry the implicit threat of enforcement action if the regulated public does not comply. Moreover, the public frequently has insufficient notice of guidance documents, which are not always published in the Federal Register or distributed to all regulated parties.

Americans deserve an open and fair regulatory process that imposes new obligations on the public only when consistent with applicable law and after an agency follows appropriate procedures. Therefore, it is the policy of the executive branch, to the extent consistent with applicable law, to require that agencies treat guidance documents as non-binding both in law and in practice, except as incorporated into a contract, take public input into account when appropriate in formulating guidance documents, and make guidance documents readily available to the public. Agencies may impose legally binding requirements on the public only through regulations and on parties on a case-by-case basis through adjudications, and only after appropriate process, except as authorized by law or as incorporated into a contract.”

-Donald Trump, “Executive Order on Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents,” whitehouse.gov, Oct. 9, 2019

[Note: Read the full Executive Order signed by Donald Trump.]