State Groups Ask Trump For Rulemaking Halt Amid Outbreak

By Jon Hill
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Law360 (March 20, 2020, 12:29 PM EDT) -- A coalition of state and local government organizations urged President Donald Trump on Friday to pause comment periods on active rulemakings across the federal government, saying they and other members of the public have their hands full dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Governors Association and other groups representing state and local officials said in a letter to the president that the "massive challenges" they're facing from the pandemic will hinder their ability to engage with the federal government on rulemakings that affect millions of people.

"Therefore, state and local governments urge you to extend agency comment periods for a reasonable period of time, which will allow our state and local policymakers to focus on addressing the nation's immediate pandemic response needs and ensure their ability to devote proper consideration of agency regulations," the groups said.

Joining the NGA on Friday's letter were the National Conference of State Legislatures, Council of State Governments, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, United States Conference of Mayors, Government Finance Officers Association, International City/County Management Association and National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers.

Nearly 700 open comment periods are set to close in the next 30 days and more than 1,000 will close in the next 90 days, according to the letter, which cites data from the government's online rulemaking portal,

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.

The organizations' letter comes amid growing calls for federal regulators to put their policymaking agendas on hold during the COVID-19 crisis, which has caused major disruptions throughout the economy and sent officials at all levels of government scrambling to respond.

This past week, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee demanded that the Federal Reserve and other federal financial agencies suspend almost all their rulemaking projects in the works so they can focus more on combating the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus.

Such a moratorium could delay a host of regulatory initiatives eagerly anticipated by the financial services industry, including updated consumer communication and disclosure standards for debt collectors and an overhaul of the regulations requiring banks to lend to lower-income and underserved communities.

The California Reinvestment Coalition, which has been critical of the overhaul, similarly called Thursday for work on that latter project to stop, arguing that the public otherwise won't have an adequate chance to provide feedback and that all "federal resources should be directed to contend with the health and economic consequences of this pandemic."

Some federal agencies have already begun extending comment periods in response to the outbreak. On Friday, for example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it would now accept feedback for an additional month on a set of time-barred debt disclosure standards it recently proposed, pushing the comment deadline back into early June.

--Editing by Marygrace Murphy.

Update: This story has been updated with additional details.

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