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Check your knowledge on the basics of regulation. 

What is regulation?

  • Specific instructions and/or guidelines for what businesses and individuals can or cannot do.

How is a regulation different from a law?

  • The term “regulation” is often used loosely to describe both laws and regulations. The difference is in who makes them and how they are enforced.
  • When elected officials in Congress or state legislatures pass bills, they create statutory laws. Laws often contain broad goals but lack detail. Agencies are responsible for writing specific regulations based on their interpretation of these goals. Though regulations carry the force of law, they are not created by elected officials.  

Where I can find and read regulations?

  • All existing federal rules are found in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The CFR contains over 175,000 pages of regulation. It would take the average person nearly three years to read the entire CFR (including two weeks vacation).
  • When a federal agency proposes a new rule, it is submitted to the Federal Register. Citizens can view and comment on rules by visiting regulations.gov. The Federal Register is published daily and keeps track of proposed changes to the CFR.
  • State and local rules are available on a variety of respective government websites.

How are laws and regulations enforced?

  • The judicial system is responsible for seeing that laws are enforced. Regulations, however, are enforced by a mix of judicial and regulatory agency bodies. For example, federal regulators can enforce rules by bringing a case against an offender in court. They can also enforce rules through administrative courts that operate within the agency.
  • When someone violates a regulation, they are considered guilty of committing a crime under the legislative statute that preceded the regulation.

How many regulators are there?

  • At the federal level, there are hundreds of agencies and commissions responsible for creating and enforcing regulations. For a complete list, visit https://www.federalregister.gov/agencies
  • In addition to federal agency employees, the number of state and local employees increased from 7.2 million in 1963 to 19.3 million in 2012.

Who oversees regulatory agencies?

  • Federal agencies are part of the executive branch and report to the President, while Congress can indirectly oversee agencies by passing or amending the laws that require regulation.
  • At the state level, regulatory agencies are typically composed of boards or commissions appointed by the governor.

What’s the difference between an Executive Branch Agency and Independent Regulatory Agency?

  • While both technically fall under the executive branch, independent agencies (ex: Federal Trade Commission) operate independently of political influence, whereas executive branch agencies (ex: Department of Defense) are more directly accountable to the President.

How do federal, state, and local regulations interact?

  • Individuals and businesses are subject to four levels of regulation, all of which carry the force of law: federal, state, county, and municipal (e.g. cities and towns).
  • Different levels of regulation can overlap and conflict, making compliance confusing for individuals and businesses. In practice, federal regulations take precedence over state and local regulations.

What is Red Tape?

  • Red tape describes rules that create frustrating or unnecessary burdens on individuals and business while doing little to protect their interests. Red tape is distinguishable from regulations that support citizen well-being and a healthy marketplace.

What makes for helpful feedback? 

  • We recommend submitting feedback that: 
    • Identifies a specific rule and agency.
    • Provides an example of the rule's impact to you.
    • Describes what action you think should be taken.
    • Quantifies costs and benefits of the rule.
    • Expresses additional concerns related to the rule.

Check out examples of good feedback from literary legend Mark Twain. 


Psst...we're not the only ones collecting feedback!

Explore these state initiatives to address red tape. 

Kentucky | Virginia | Illinois