About the National Archives

Information About Regulations

Why do we have regulations?

When Congress enacts a Federal law, or statute, the law often does not include all the details that explain how people, businesses, or government organizations should follow the law.

For example, Congress might pass a law making it illegal to break the speed limit.
However, that would not tell you what the speed limit is in front of your house.
You would not have the details you needed to follow the law.

To develop technical, operational, and legal details that make the laws work on a day-to-day level, Congress authorizes certain Federal government agencies - including NARA - to create regulations, or rules.

These agencies are called "regulatory agencies" because they have the authority to issue regulations that carry the force of law.

What are regulations?

Regulations are mandatory requirements.

They can apply to:

  • Individuals
  • Businesses
  • State or local governments
  • Non-profit institutions
  • Others

For violating Federal regulations,
these groups and individuals can be:

  • Fined
  • Sanctioned
  • Forced to close
  • Jailed

As a result, so that individuals and organizations have a say in these rules:

  • Members of the public have the opportunity to read and comment on a proposed regulation before it is issued
  • Regulations must go through a several-step review process during development that may include review by Congress and the President
  • Any person may submit a petition for rulemaking to ask an agency to add, revise, or remove a regulation

What kinds of information are included in regulations?

Regulations that carry out or support a law may include details and requirements about:

  • What is legal and what isn't
  • How to meet those requirements
  • How to use the agency's programs
  • Timelines that must be met
  • Definitions of special terms
  • Other similar information

Would you like to learn more about:

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