With the housing crisis, banking crisis, unemployment crisis, and all the other general crisis that our country is facing, the government is constantly in a scramble to create new legislation to deal with the current mess. There is so much paper work, proposals, and legislation, that most of us everyday people don’t have a clue about half of what is going on. With the Freedom of Information Act, as citizens, we are granted the authority to make document requests of public documents. However, making such requests can often be time consuming, and even costly. Furthermore, if you don’t have the inside scoop, it may be difficult to determine who to ask, and where to find that person. This is one reason why electronic access to public records is such an important resources for adequate access to information.
Once records are online, anyone with access to a computer can locate and view documents of interest with a few clicks of a button. Many state and federal governments already provide online access to information, yet with the state of politics and the economy, it is nice to have as much information available as possible. The Federal Register is just another agency that we can now add to the list of those who provide online access. This is exciting news in the world of public records, as the Federal Register is the agency that officially publishes proposed rules, existing rules, notices of Federal agencies, and presidential documents (including executive orders).
The documents published by the Federal Register were already public records before the launch of this website, however, anyone who wanted to view these official documents would have to visit the office in Washington, DC. Thus, while these documents were technically available to the public, only very few actually had the privilege and opportunity to act on their rights to access. This new a service is called the Electronic Public Inspection Desk, and it allows users to view documents that will be published the next day. In the past, these documents were made available before being published, but only available for inspection at the office. Regular filings are available to view at 8:45 AM on the day before they are entered into the Federal Register file. Documents not filed at the 8:45AM period are called Special filings.
The site is very user friendly organized according to agency and organization, so you can go down the list and see which agencies and/or organization are publishing rules or notices. You can then view a PDF of the document.
Thankfully, there are many other federal organizations that provide easy access to certain documents. Depending on what you are looking for. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency provides access to rules and other regulations online, as do many other agencies. There are also online searchable databases for nation issues such as missing and exploited children, sex offender registry, and even Federal Land Conveyance records from the Bureau of Land Management. To find access to these and many other Federal Government databases, visit The Free Public Records Directory. Here you will find links to various government agencies and organizations and other national records.