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How Laws Are Made: The Administrative Agencies

FDLP Academy Webinars and Webcasts

Federal Administrative Agencies - Rulemaking Process

Federal administrative law comes from the Office of the President, the agencies of the Executive Branch, and independent regulatory agencies. Agencies only have the authority to create or promulgate regulations by a specific delegation from Congress.  

The administrative law takes a number of forms--rules, regulations, procedures, orders, and decisions. Administrative agencies act both quasi-judicially and quasi-legislatively. The administrative agencies act like a legislature when developing or promulgating rules and regulations. They act like a court when conducting hearings and issuing rulings and decisions.

Federal agencies, when issuing rules, have to follow the steps laid out in the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946. The Administrative Procedure Act was passed in order to ensure public participation in the rulemaking process, and also to ensure that agencies followed a consistent set of procedures for issuing rules. Proposed rules and final rules are initially published in the Federal Register; after the publication of the final rule, the rules that are currently in force are organized by subject and published annually in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

Unified Agenda - made up of the Regulatory Plan (published by the agencies in the fall) and the Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (published by the agencies in the spring and fall). The Unified Agenda is how agencies announce future rulemaking activities and update the public on pending and completed regulatory actions.

Executive Orders - 1993 to present

Proposed Rules

  • Federal Register 2.0 - redesigned to be easier to search, establish your own account to save documents
  • Federal Register (FR)
  •  - Official federal comment portal

Final Rules

  • Federal Register - The Federal Register (FR) is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents.
  • Code of Federal Regulations - The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification (subject arrangement) of the general and permanent rules initially published in the Federal Register. It is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to Federal regulation. Each title is divided into chapters, which usually bear the name of the issuing agency.  Each chapter is further subdivided into parts that cover specific regulatory areas.

Administrative Decisions

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Legislation vs. Regulation

There are some parallels between the statutory process and the regulatory process.

  Statutory - U.S. Congress Regulatory - Federal Agencies
Initial publication Slip Law (Pub. L. 87-718) Agency documents FR Doc. 77-36597 & Federal Register (66 Fed. Reg. 54912 (Oct. 31, 2001))
Annual Compilation U.S. Statutes at Large (76 Stat. 663) Code of Federal Regulations (9 C.F.R. § 319.180 (2016))
Codification U.S. Code (7 U.S.C. § 1633) Code of Federal Regulations (9 C.F.R. § 319.180 (2016))

Learn More

Guide to Administrative Law 

A Guide to the Rulemaking Process - Office of the Federal Register

Here are some research guides created by other law schools that might be helpful in explaining how to conduct administrative law research.

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