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Federal Regulatory History

Compiling a Federal Regulatory History

The following steps will help guide you in locating the history of a federal regulation.  See our guide Administrative Law: Online Resources for links to access the Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register online. 

The Code Federal Regulations is divided into 50 titles organized by subject which are subdivided into chapters organized by agency, parts, subparts, and sections.  When you locate your citation in the CFR, there are several places to look to begin tracing the history of the regulation.

  • First, find the “Authority” note which follows the outline for the CFR part.  The Authority note provides a citation to the statutory or executive authority for the regulation.
  • Following the Authority Note, you will find the “Source” note providing the Federal Register citation where the rule was originally published.  You might also find Authority and Source notes for a particluar section of the CFR.
  • Take note of the preamble to the final rule published in the Federal Register which provides some background information regarding the regulation and the agency’s intent.  This citation will also include a reference to the proposed rule in the Federal Register.  The proposed rule also has a preamble providing additional insight into the agency’s intent.
  • In addition to the rule, the Federal Register may contain other notices or documents of interest regarding your regulation.
  • Finally, try searching for comments submitted to the agency during the rulemaking process.  Websites, such as regulations.gov, have public comments on proposed rules which can provide additional insight into their meaning and history.

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