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Regulations Research

U.S. Regulations

Regulations are a form of delegated legislation. Legislatures delegate the power to promulgate regulations, also called administrative rules or administrative law, to administrative agencies, especially in those situations when they want to put in place complex controls or incentives requiring close monitoring and/or specialized knowledge.
For instance, Congress passes new tax legislation and then the IRS proposes regulations to implement the details of the legislation. This happens at both the national and state level.
Important databases for regulations research include

Why are regulations important?
Regulations have the force and effect of law when an administrative agency promulgates them within its authority and according to appropriate procedures. Publication of regulations provides constructive notice of the contents of the provisions.

How are regulations published?
Regulations are published both chronologically and topically. Chronological publications are called administrative registers. Topical arrangements of regulations are called administrative codes.

Regulations are published first as proposals, then, after a comment period, they are finalized. Federal regulations appear as both proposed, then final regulations in the Federal Register (FR), and topically in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The Federal Register is published daily Monday through Friday. The CFR is published annually on a quarterly rotating basis.

How do I find current federal regulations?
Both the
Federal Register and the CFR are available on the Internet on GovInfo allows full text searching of both titles. It includes the full text of the FR back to 1994. The Federal Register is also available back to 1936 on HeinOnline (UVA only).

Since each volume of the CFR is updated only once a year, the researcher should also check the List of Sections Affected (LSA) pamphlets that accompany the CFR. LSA provides references to Federal Register pages containing new and amended regulations published since any CFR volume was last reprinted. For the latest changes to any CFR section, also check the "CFR Parts Affected" in the Reader Aids section in the back of the latest Federal Register issue for each month since the publication of the LSA pamphlet.

How Do I Comment on Proposed Regulations?
As of January 2003 the federal government makes it easy to comment on proposed regulations with the web site. You can search a regulation by department or by keyword, and comment on it via a web form.

How do I find regulatory history of federal regulations?
The Federal Register contains promulgated regulations, but it also contains the rulemaking activities, i.e. the "legislative history," of a regulation. The usual rulemaking process includes publication of a notice of intent, proposed rules, requests for comments, and final rules. Also included are explanations of the rulemakers' intent, including summaries of comments received and how those comments affected the regulations.

The back of each CFR volume contains List of Sections Affected (LSA) tables that indicate when each regulation was added, amended or repealed. These can be found in by searching "List of Sections Affected" in virgo

How do I use the Federal Register?
The Federal Register has its own daily, monthly and annual indexes. The primary access through these indexes is the issuing agency and type of activity, e.g. EPA, rulemaking.
The full text of the Federal Register can also be searched through the Lexis and Westlaw systems of computer assisted legal research. It is also available via