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U.S. Government Legal Information

Unpacking Regulations

Regulations are written by executive agencies to establish the rules and detailed procedures needed to administer the statutory laws passed by Congress and signed by the President. All of these terms are used to describe regulations: rule, administrative law, delegated legislation, and sublegislation.

Federal Register: The federal government publishes all regulations in the Federal Register, along with other materials (such as proposed rules, and notices).

Code of Federal Regulations: The regulations are collected, rearranged by subject, and published in the Code of Federal Regulations.

A legal newspaper published every government business day. Contains all federal agency regulations. Also contains notices, proposed rules, presidential proclamations, executive orders, and public laws. Rules and proposed rules include citations to the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.). Published since 1936. The Federal Register is available in several online versions; searching capabilities differ.

Presidential documents: Executive orders, numbered consecutively and reprinted annually in Title 3 of the CFR, and Presidential proclamations

Rules and regulations: Final rules, temporary rules, and corrections. These amend the CFR and will be codified in the annual revision.

Proposed rules: These announce possible changes to the CFR and solicit public comment on the proposal, such as notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and preliminary rulemaking documents. Includes advance notices of proposed rulemaking and petitions for rulemaking.
Proposed rules are not of permanent legal value and are not codified in the CFR.

Notices: Documents describing official actions and functions of an agency that affect the public or provide important information, but do not amend the CFR.

Arrangement: Arranged by agency.

The CFR is the subject arrangement (codification) of the general and permanent regulations of federal agencies. The regulations are arranged (codified) into 50 subject areas, called "Titles." Indexing is by agency with some subject references. The CFR is revised once a year, in a quarterly publication cycle. The CFR is available in several online versions. Dates of coverage and searching capabilities differ. 

Federal Register: 

The legal citation for a Rule in the Federal Register identifies the volume and page where the rule is published.

Code of Federal Regulations: 

A citation to a rule in the Code of Federal Regulations identifies the title number, the abbreviation "C.F.R.", the part and/or section number, and the year of the latest revision of the title, in parentheses.