State Level Administrative Law
State administrative law
Many of the concepts in federal administrative law have been adopted by the states in their approach to organizing state level administrative agencies. There are typically procedural acts that guide how an agency operates; there are administrative codes and registers; state agencies can issue regulatory decisions when authorized by the law setting up the agency.
State procedural acts
These will always be in code compilations and searchable by the keywords “administrative procedure act” either in the code index or online. An online search in a general search engine such as Google should also include the name of the state. The online reference should appear within the first few results on the first page. Searching in online code databases available in Lexis and Westlaw will find the act or references to it by searching the phrase “administrative procedure.”
These acts cover many of the same concepts as a general matter, but are usually tailored to the individual needs and organizing structure of each state. They are not identical in terms from state to state. One way to research the structure of administrative law in a state is to locate a state treatise (usually from a continuing legal education source) or a legal encyclopedia. Either should give significant detail about the regulatory structure in individual states.
State administrative codes and registers
These types of publications perform the same duty as their federal counterparts. However, their publication format can vary widely from the federal model. Some states update their codes in print by replacing pages in a looseleaf format. Thus earlier editions of the code may not be available for the snapshot look as the code existed at an earlier time. Registers may not be published daily, as is with the federal government. State registers may be published weekly instead. Note that the indexing of both codes and registers will also vary from state to state.
Some states, such as Illinois, do not have printed codes and offer the current text via a state web site. The online location may vary from state to state. Obvious locations include the secretary of state web site, or the legislature’s web site. A general search of the Internet for “[state] administrative code” will bring up results that identify the location of the state administrative code or link to it. It is rare for an administrative code to appear in an annotated version, except, possibly, on a commercial legal research system.
State administrative decisions
State administrations vary with the number of departments a state may have. Those that issue decisions should make at least current decisions available on their web sites and in most sitautions provide an archive of decisions for the last five to ten years. State administrative decisions are rarely published in book form outside of opinions from the state attorney general. Lexis and Westlaw archive public decisions of state agencies in their state collections. These collections, again, vary from state to state. The subject areas where state administrative decisions seem most common are insurance, labor, public utilities, workers compensation, tax, and environment.
Committees on rule publication
Many state legislatures have some type of committee devoted to rule publications. Some states refer to them as the Joint Committee on Rules. This committee is less a committee than an agency that works to publish the state’s administrative code and/or its register. It may also have the responsibility to work with agencies to harmonize the rulemaking language so that there is consistency in across the titles and chapters of the code.
Some of these committees have contact information associated with them and may be open to conversation with affected parties on the meaning of the rule or the fact that a rule has unintended consequences. State rule compilations are not necessarily monolithic creatures that have no accountability to the public. Consider contacting a representative of this type of committee on questions of rule application.
Historical research issues
As noted, code snapshots may not be available in state offerings. At this point, it becomes necessary to compare registers with code sections to see where changes have taken place, or at least back to a specific point in time. These registers may or may not be available via a government web site. If not, a commercial legal research service may make them available and offer key word search capability as an extra feature. If there is no access to these sources, consider a public library as a source for state registers in print. The most likely alternative beyond these is a likely archive of this material held in the state library.