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Pennsylvania Administrative Law Research: Pennsylvania Regulatory Process

This guide reviews the basic process of Pennsylvania administrative law research. It discusses the primary resources that are involved in Pennsylvania administrative law research, and provides a step-by-step guide to the process.

Pennsylvania Regulatory Process

Pursuant to their enabling statutes, Pennsylvania agencies have the authority to promulgate, amend, and repeal regulations. A brief, generalized summary of the regulatory rulemaking process is below. For more detailed information, see the Independent Regulatory Review Commission's guide to The Regulatory Review Process in Pennsylvania or the Pennsylvania Bar Institute's guide to Creating, Influencing and Challenging a Regulation.

First, an agency with rulemaking authority determines that it wants to adopt, amend, or repeal a regulation, and drafts proposed language.

Second, the agency must submit its proposed regulation to the Office of General Counsel and Office of Attorney General, each of which conducts an independent review as to form and legality.

Third, assuming that no objections arise during the legal review phase, a notice of the proposed regulation is published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. This notice must include:

  • The text of the proposed regulation, indicating any changes in the language of the existing regulation;
  • The agency's statutory authority to propose the regulation;
  • A brief explanation of the proposed regulation and its intended purpose;
  • A request for comments;
  • A fiscal note from the Office of the Budget; and
  • Any other statement required by law.

At the same time that the agency submits its notice for publication, it also submits a copy of the regulation and a Regulatory Analysis Form ("RAF") to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission ("IRRC"). The RAF contains information on the justification, benefits, and risks of the proposed regulation, including comparisons to federal and other state standards, descriptions of alternatives which were considered and rejected, and more. The RAF is not published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin but is available on the IRRC website (find the regulation you are looking for, and click on the 'download proposed regulation' link).

Fourth, following publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, there is a public comment period of at least 30 days. During this time period, any interested person is encourage to file comments with the agency, the IIRC, and any relevant committees of the General Assembly. The IRRC also conducts independent outreach to notify groups and individuals who may be impacted by a proposed regulation.

Fifth, within 30 days of the close of the public comment period, the IRRC must submit its comments, recommendations, and objections to the proposed regulation. The IRRC has a specific set of criteria that it applies, including determinations of whether the regulation is within the agency's statutory authority, whether it is consistent with legislative intent, and whether it is in the public interest. These comments are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Sixth, the agency must respond to all comments received from the public, the General Assembly, and the IRRC and prepare a final-form regulation. The agency has up to two years after the close of the public comment period to complete the final-form regulation.

Seventh, the agency submits the final-form regulation to the IRRC and the relevant committees of the General Assembly. At its next scheduled meeting (but no less than 30 days after delivery of the regulation), the IRRC may approve or disapprove the regulation. A legislative committee can approve, disapprove, or state its intent to further review the final-form regulation at any time up to 24 hours before the IRRC meeting.

Eighth, assuming that the IRRC and committee approve the regulation, the agency submits the regulation to the Attorney General for a final review.

Finally, upon the Attorney General's approval, the regulation is published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. The regulation becomes effective on the date of publication (or on a later date specified by the agency).

Statutory Guidance

The Pennsylvania regulatory process is governed by four statutes:

  • Commonwealth Documents Law (45 PS. §§ 1102-1208): Governs the procedural steps in the preparation of a regulation.
  • Administrative Code (71 P.S. § 232): Requires the Office of the Budget to prepare a fiscal note for proposed regulations.
  • Commonwealth Attorneys Act (71 P.S. §§ 732-101 - 732-506): Provides for legal review and approval by the Offices of General Counsel and Attorney General.
  • Regulatory Review Act (71 P.S. §§ 745.1 - 745.15): Provides for oversight and review by IRRC and the General Assembly.

Two-Stage Regulatory Review Process

IRRC Annual Report

Every year the IRRC must publish a report on the previous year's regulatory activity, including summaries of all proposed and finalized regulations. These annual reports are available on the IRRC website.