Attorney General Ford, 20 States Call for Federal Government to Prioritize COVID-19 Related Rulemaking

March 31, 2020

Carson City, NV - Today, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford and 20 other attorneys general wrote a letter calling on the Trump Administration to focus its efforts on the COVID-19 pandemic and freeze most other pending rulemaking activity. In their letter addressed to the Acting Director of the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the attorneys general note that state and local governments across the nation remain focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and combating the spread of the deadly virus. 

The letter urges the federal government to halt most non-COVID related rulemaking processes, and asks that the Administration consider reopening certain already-closed rule comment periods "at an appropriate time and for an appropriate duration." The reopened comment periods would allow federal agencies to receive new input from state and local governments, businesses and others impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, including information on the pandemic and the economic effect.

"In the wake of this national emergency, I'm encouraging our federal lawmakers to focus on the task at hand-the COVID-19 crisis," said AG Ford. "Nevada and states across the country are focused all of our efforts on the current public health emergency and have little time to respond to non-urgent federal rules. This should also apply to the Trump Administration."

Among the Administration proposals that could be postponed if the federal government were to prioritize rulemaking related to COVID-19 are plans that would eliminate or roll back protections against predatory lending, housing discrimination, sexual harassment and violence in education, and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals in federally funded programs. Another proposal that could be delayed is the cutbacks in the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps, which would affect far more Americans today than when they were originally proposed because of the recent economic downturn.

The attorneys general call for a general freeze on all new and pending rules other than those that address emergencies or other urgent circumstances relating to health, safety, financial or national security matters or that are required by statutory or judicial deadlines. The Trump Administration adopted the same kind of freeze on the president's first day in office, the letter notes. The letter also mentions that federal agencies have already taken some steps to prioritize resources to focus on COVID-19 and that some federal agencies have already extended rulemaking comment periods in response to the pandemic.

The requested freeze is essential to ensure that the federal government does not take rulemaking steps that would call for action by state or local governments, businesses, other organizations and the public at a time when their "ability to meet and communicate with each other has been limited" by the COIVD-19 pandemic.

In addition to Nevada, other states that participated in letter include: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

The issued letter is attached.