The decades just before America began its existence as a sovereign nation saw a blossoming of radical philosophical thought, which we now term the Enlightenment. It is easy to look back two hundred plus years and find the powder wigged men, with their pointy shoes and silly breeches as quaint, cute and vestiges of an easier time; but for those living through and engaged in the Enlightenment it was revolutionary, counter cultural, sacrilegious and dangerous. For one of the many things they were advocating was an open government, transparent, created by the people not appointed by God through a royal lineage. It truly is stunning and jaw dropping to ponder just what they were proposing and then when one realizes that so much of what they believed in has worked and become our normal, well that just does one in.
One of the many aspects of the Enlightenment that is still at play is the notion that one does not need to be royal, a pillar in society, wealthy or esteemed to express one’s voice, to be heard. Now thank heavens decades and centuries have pushed this notion further so that in 2017, in theory, truly everyone in society has the right to use her or his voice, has the right to be heard – and while we may question whether we are truly heard, our right is there.
Most of us are aware of several ways to actualize this right: by physically attending and speaking at government meetings (such as town halls, city & county meetings, etc…), by participating in protests, by contacting our elected officials on the local, state or national level and most of us have been boldly claiming and embodying this right. Now, let me introduce you to another way in which you can let your voice be heard.
When the Federal Government proposes a Rule or a Regulation, change (this can be done via Executive Order or Congress passing a new law) then the agency under which that Rule/Regulation falls must make it possible for the public to comment on the proposed change. Some agencies and some Rules/Regulations require that all comments be responded to, some require that comments be incorporated into the final Rule/Regulation but even if this is not the case, all comments are read and become part of the permanent government record. So if you want your voice heard and if you want posterity to know your thoughts on a specific Rule/Regulation, then start typing away (now technically the agencies do review the comments and have some leeway in whether to accept or reject the comment, but you do get a tracking number when you submit a comment and so you can track whether your comment as been accepted and if it is rejected, well just make another one).
So here is what you need to know in order to submit comments: the home page for comment submission is https://www.regulations.gov/, once on the site you need to know what Rule/Regulation you are wanting to comment on and enter that information into the Search field (the more precise as in the exact reference number, the better as there are a lot of items that come up even when you are precise), click on the item you want to speak up on and you will be taken to a summary page of that proposed Rule/Regulation page, click the “Comment Now!” button on the far right and start typing (different agencies require different contact information from you).
A tip sheet on how to write comments can be found at: https://www.regulations.gov/docs/Tips_For_Submitting_Effective_Comments.pdf
A list of agencies that participate in this e-version of comment submission is at: https://www.regulations.gov/aboutPartners
And the history of the e-version of comment submission is at (a fun and random fact, the EPA manages this internet site): https://www.regulations.gov/aboutProgram