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What Is Regulatory Law?

Most regulatory law is not found in statutes.
Governmental agencies are authorized by Congress to enforce rules and regulations.
Regulatory laws carry the same force as laws created by Congress or state legislatures.
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  • Written By: Pablo Garcia
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2014
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Regulatory law is a part of administrative law and consists of the rules and regulations set out by administrative agencies. In the US, the authority of these agencies is delegated to them by Congress on the federal level and by the state legislatures of the various US jurisdictions at the state level. The two principal functions of administrative agencies are rulemaking and regulatory enforcement, also called "adjudication." Administrative agencies have their own courts and judges.

In 1789, Congress began using regulatory agencies and laws to administer customs, trade, and the issuance of veteran’ benefits. As the government grew, the task of regulating industries and addressing the many concerns of society became too difficult for Congress alone to administer. It began to delegate its authority to administrative agencies in certain areas. The theory was that experts within a given industry were better suited to devise and implement the rules governing those industries. Administrative law today encompasses a large number of administrative agencies, each governing a particular industry or area of public concern.

Administrative agencies have regulatory commissions that create regulatory law and enforce compliance with it. They also set and enforce industry standards. Some examples of regulatory commissions operating under the authority of Congress are the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Agriculture. Most federal administrative agencies have counterparts at the state level. Most other countries as well have some form of administrative agencies, regardless of their type of government.

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Regulatory law has the same force as laws enacted by Congress or a state legislature. Many private companies have their own personnel whose task it is to insure that the companies comply with state and federal regulations. The US Government tries to ensure that the public knows and has access to federal regulations. On 18 January 2011, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order instructing all federal administrative agencies with regulatory authority to make their compliance and enforcement procedures available and downloadable online.

Most regulatory law is not found in statutes. Instead, it is published in the Congressional Federal Register (CFR). The National Archives and Records Administration compiles the CFR. It can be found in law school and university libraries and some larger public libraries.

The Government also makes CFR rules and regulations available online. The online version of the CFR is not considered official legislation but is updated daily. Each state has its own compilation of state administrative rules and procedure.

Administrative law courts adjudicate disputes between regulatory agencies and businesses, organizations, and individuals. Hearings are conducted by an administrative law judge, who is usually employed by the regulatory body. Administrative law courts must act within the bounds of the Constitution and federal and state statutes.

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