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Zimmerman's Research Guide


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State Regulations and Administrative Codes

This entry discusses:



I. How to Get Proposed and Final State Regulations

When a state agency drafts regulations, it generally releases them as "Proposed" regulations and solicits comments from the public. After the comment period, the agency edits the draft and releases "Final" regulations, which have the force of law. Generally, both proposed and final regulations are published in the state's equivalent to the Federal Register, known as the state "Register," "Bulletin," "Journal" or "Record" (e.g., the New York Register or the California Regulatory Notice Register); you can look up the exact title in the blue pages of The Bluebook. Note: Some states publish only a notice that Proposed (or even Final) regulations are available from the agency, rather than publishing the full text of the regulations.

Good sources for state regulations include:

(a) The State Register Web sites. Most states post their Registers online. Links are posted by the National Association of Secretaries of State and FindLaw.

(b) The agency's Web site. Many state agencies post their regulations free on their Web sites. Links to agency Web sites are posted by Piper Resources and FindLaw, on the state's page under "Government Information." If that doesn't work, you can search for the agency's site in any good search engine.

(c) Readily-available subject-specific looseleafs, such as the CCH Blue Sky Law Reporter and the National Insurance Law Service (NILS). Also, regulations are often reprinted in the "Current Matter" releases of CCH (and other) looseleafs and in legal periodicals that cover the subject area.

(d) Lexis and/or Westlaw. Note: If you have cites to a page in the state Register, you can pull the regs for cheap (as discussed below).

(e) Large in-state law libraries will all have the state's Register. If you have a citation, you can get copies by calling any in-state academic or government library with a document delivery service. Note: This is generally the best way to get old regulations.

(f) Contact the agency. This is a particularly viable option when the state Register/Bulletin/Journal/Record tells you who to call, and especially if it provides a phone number. Otherwise, you will probably have to start with the switchboard and ask around.


II. How to Get Volumes and Sections of State Administrative Codes

Some time after a state agency issues Final regulations, the the new regs are edited into the state's administrative code. Good ways to get state administrative codes sections include:

(a) Pull the volume from your library's shelf. Works great if the books are there. Otherwise, use the other sources.

(b) Print sections from a free web site. Most states post their administrative free online. You can find them by following the links posted by National Association of Secretaries of State and FindLaw. But be careful: While government sites are generally reliable, they are not always well maintained, proofread or kept current.

(c) Print sections from a fee-based online service. Lexis (CODES;_____) and Westlaw (xx-ADC) have just about all the state administrative codes. Some of these are annotated, some not.

(d) Print sections from a subscription-based commercial web sites. Loislaw provides regulatory codes for all the states. CCH and BNA have subject specific online "libraries" that include the relevant regulations. For more on these sites, see the entries in this Guide for specific subjects and agencies. Casemaker also provides regulatory codes, but is available only to members of participating state bar associations.

(e) Borrow the volume(s). A given state's administrative code will be available in almost all in-state law libraries and in some larger out-of-state law libraries. The volumes are generally available for loan on the same terms as treatises.

To do this, you may need to know what to ask for, i.e., the name of the the state's administrative code and the number(s) of the volume(s) you need. You can get the name of the code from the blue pages of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. You can look up the volume on the publisher's web site. If you can't find it there, you can very politely ask the lending librarian to pick out the volume you need.

(f) Get copies from an in-state law library with a document delivery service.

Answers to common questions: Here are answers to some common questions about getting state regulations and administrative code sections.

(1) Should I use books, Lexis, Westlaw, an online subscription service or a free web site? The short answer is "It depends," but another answer is "It often doesn't matter," because most of these sources can get you the information you want relatively quickly at a reasonable price. Nevertheless, some relevant factors to consider include:

Its generally easier and cheaper to browse a book than an online source or a bunch of print outs.

Since free Internet sites may not be proofread or up-to-date, don't use them when accuracy is critical unless you are sure the site is reliable.

Lexis and Westlaw cost money to use, while using a subscription service, a government web site or books on your shelf is probably free.

It is a lot easier to print out a bunch of sections from an online service than it is to photocopy a lot of pages from a book.

The easiest way is often the best way. You are more likely to get the right thing, and the less time and effort you spend on something mindless like getting regs the more you will have for the hard stuff.

(2) How do I know which volume to borrow? This generally comes up when you have a citation and need to borrow the volume with that citation. You should be able to search for the section on Lexis, Westlaw, LOIS, another database or a free Web site. You can either just print out the section or get the volume from the official citation on the first page.

(4) How can I get annotated sections of a state's administrative code? Some states have annotated administrative codes, others don't. To find out the situation for a particular state, call the state library or a large in-state academic or government library and ask a librarian. Alternatively, the most likely sources for annotated versions online are Lexis and Westlaw; you can call Lexis or Westlaw and ask whether they have an annotated version on their system. Even if they don't, you can get annotations by pulling a Shepard's or KeyCite report for the relevant code section(s).

(5) How do I get historical editions of a state's administrative code? Getting old editions of a state administrative code can be tough. Lexis has historical editions for many states starting with 2004, and you can check Westlaw. Otherwise, your best bet is to contact the relevant State library, large law libraries in the state, very large law libraries in other states and the relevant agency that wrote the regs. I would probably try these sources in about that order. You can also check the entry in the Guide for the state you need; if I know anything special I would put it in there.


III. How to Track the Status of New State Regulations

"Tracking" a regulation means checking the progress of a regulation as it is drafted, revised, considered, re-considered, proposed and finally issued by an agency.

The basic way to do this is just to check the state's register. That should tell you when proposed and final regulations are issued and, occaisionally, you may find something else useful.

The best tool for tracking state regulations on a big scale is said to be State Net, a database designed to monitor regulations in all states from proposal through adoption. Another option: Multistate Associates Incorporated, 703-684-1110.

State Net data is available through Lexis. Westlaw has its own regulation tracking databases. Some states and agencies provide RSS feeds that announce new proposed and final regulations.

For more detailed information, you may want to call the agency and try to find someone who can tell you what's going on inside the agency.


IV. How to Compare State Regulations

Westlaw offers a database of 50-State Regulatory Surveys (REG-SURVEYS) that compares the treatment of selected legal topic in the regulations of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. For more information on 50-state surveys, see "(State Laws, generally."

You can look up the Westlaw surveys and others using the Subject Compilation of State Laws (W.S. Hein), either in print or through HeinOnline.

If no 50-state survey is available, some CCH Reporters provide summaries of state laws by topic (e.g., the State Laws volume of the Labor Relations Reporter), as will on-point articles in American Law Reports (ALRs), American Jurisprudence (Am Jur) and Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS), or any of the law reviews or journals. A treatise on the topic may also discuss the various state approaches to an issue.

If that doesn't work, you may have to pull the relevant sections, read them and draw your own conclusions. Alternatively, you could try to try to find a web site or article that covers the issue in question. Or you could try to contact an expert who could clue you in.


See Also
Code of Federal Regulations
Federal Regulations
Internal Revenue Code and Regulations
State Statutes and Codes

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2014 Andrew Zimmerman