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Research Strategies for Successful Completion of Your Upper Level Writing Requirement: Agency Materials

Rulemaking Power

Congress transfers legislative authority to agencies under the delegation doctrine.  Rulemaking is one of the main functions of agencies.  Administrative rules (also known as regulations) are adopted by agencies and considered primary legal authority.  The process of rule making is governed by the Administrative Procedure Act and requires the publication of proposed rules, a period for comment, participation in decision making, and the adoption and publication of final rules.  

Finding Regulations (Rules)

Federal regulations can located in many ways, such as using references in secondary sources and through cross-references from statutes to regulations in an annotated code. Individual agency websites are also generally excellent places to find their relevant regulations and proposed regulations. In addition, several reliable online sources can be searched in various ways. These sources include the large commercial database vendors (passwords required), LexisNexis, Westlaw and Bloomberg, and federal government has several free resources the research can use to find regulations, including FDSys, Regulations.gov, eCFR, and Congress.gov.  

Maine Administrative Procedure Act

In response to a decades-long concern about regulatory activity, the federal government and many other states have adopted administrative procedure acts. The intent has been to improve public access to agency decision-making and to increase awareness of agency rules.

The Maine Administrative Procedure Act (A.P.A.) may be found in statute at 5 MRSA sec. 8001 through 11116 -- see Chapters 375, 377, and 377-A. The core legislation was enacted at the First Session of the 108th Legislature, with some amendments since. It applies uniform requirements to state agencies with rule-making power, and sets minimum standards for agencies to follow in adopting and implementing rules.

The Maine Administrative Procedure Act has also been affected by Executive Order 20 11/12.

Very generally, the A.P.A. establishes a uniform, comprehensive set of procedures covering:

  • The administrative actions of state agencies, including rule-making, advisory rulings, adjudicatory proceedings, and licensing; and
  • Judicial review of those actions.

An index of Maine State Agencies can be found on the Maine State website.  The Maine State website also provides information on public meetings and hearings.  

The Federal Register

The Federal Register (F.R.) has been the official daily publication of the executive branch since 1936. It includes a variety of information about agency activities (such as notices, meetings, proposed and final regulations, and Presidential executive orders and proclamations). Proposed and final regulations are accompanied by extensive explanation and background about the purpose of the action and the comments received. This information is often useful in interpreting regulations, in the same way that legislative history is used to interpret statutes. For help with using the Federal Register, visit the National Archives’ tutorial page The Federal Register: What It Is and How to Use It.

The full text of the Federal Register may be found electronically through a variety of sources.  The are listed below.  

Administrative Decisions

Administrative agencies also have quasi-judicial and enforcement functions, and conduct hearings and issue decisions through administrative law judges. The procedures and publication of these activities varies widely. This information is not included in the Federal Register, but may be referenced there. Like federal rules and regulations, these agency decisions are available in several different places: officially published reports of decisions; commercial databases such as LexisNexis and Westlaw; agency websites; and looseleaf services. Publication of administrative decisions is more fragmented than rules and regulations, and there is no one place where all such decisions are located.

Official publications from the agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission Decisions, resemble standard court reporters. Table 1.2 of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (UMLAW Reference KF 245.U54 2015) lists the official and commercial publications covering administrative adjudications, interpretations, and opinions of the major federal regulatory agencies.

HeinOnline has digitized many official sources for administrative decisions in its U.S. Federal Agency Documents, Decisions and Appeals Library, with most dating back to volume 1 for the publication.  Other commercial databases, such as LexisNexis, Westlaw and Bloomberg provide access to administrative decisions as well.

The public website of a particular agency may also contain the full text of its decisions. A list of available agency materials is maintained by the University of Virginia. 

Designed to compensate for the delay in official publication of agency decisions and the lack of comprehensive indexing, looseleaf and electronic services publish administrative decisions in their subject areas. The URSUS catalog will help the researcher location our print CCH collection, while our online CCH services can be found through IntelliConnect. The researcher may also find the secondary sources on Bloomberg BNA or through Bloomberg Law helpful in locating administrative decisions.   

The Code of Maine Rules

The Code of Maine Rules publishes the rules by department.  It is available in print and online via LexisNexis and freely available on the Maine Secretary of State website.  Rule chapters in the Code of Maine Rules are arranged by unique numbers which identify the department, departmental unit, and chapter. For example, 01-015 CMR Chapter 1 represents Chapter 1 of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Maine Milk Commission. 

On the rules page of the Secretary of State website, the researcher need only click the highlighted departmental designation to reach a complete list of its current chapters. Chapters are hyperlinked and clicking the chapter number will open up a word document containing the text of the rule.  

The staff at the Secretary of State's office will offer advice if the researcher is having trouble trying to view these chapters.  Each rule-making agency designates a liaison as a single point of contact on rule inquiries.  In addition, the department notes that this version of the rules is not an "official" version of the rules and the research MUST request a certified copy of the rules from the APA Office for use in court.

In addition to the Code of Maine Rules, the researcher will also find a Guide To Rulemaking, weekly public notices, and the annual regulatory agenda on the Secretary of State website.  

The Maine Government Register

The Maine Government Register is a monthly publication available in print and online via LexisNexis.  The Register provides access to Emergency Rules, Proposed Rules, monthly rule activity, Executive Orders, state agency actions, and enacted public laws.  

The Code of Federal Regulations

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the annual codification of the final rules published in theFederal Register. The CFR is divided into 50 titles that represent broad subject areas. Title 3 of the CFR contains presidential proclamations, executive orders, and other presidential documents that are required to be published in the Federal Register. Each title is revised once a year officially; the cover of each print booklet indicates the date of last revision. Electronic versions are updated more frequently.  The CFR can be found online via commercial databases and freely available on government websites.  

Presidential Materials

The President of the United States issues a wide variety of documents, including executive orders and proclamations, messages to Congress, agency reorganization plans, and miscellaneous speeches, remarks, and letters. Many of these materials are included in Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and are also compiled into other publications.

Executive orders and proclamations are issued by the President and have legal effect. Although there is no legal difference between the two, proclamations are generally used to announce special events, such as Earth Day, and executive orders govern and direct agency activities.

Executive orders and proclamations are initially published in the Federal Register and the Daily (formerlyWeeklyCompilation of Presidential Documents. They are compiled annually in Title 3 of the CFR and into the Public Papers of the Presidents. Proclamations are also published in Statutes at Large and United States Code Congressional and Administrative News.

Individual executive orders and proclamations may be found online through a variety of sources.  The same is true for the Compilations of Presidential Documents.  The resources are listed below.