California Regulations Law: What Are Regulations in California?

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Since all California statutes are laws intended to regulate behavior, is "regulations" another word for "laws?" Statutes and regulations are not identical, but they are related. Both are intended to set out legally binding rules for Californians, but who makes them and how they are made are very different. Both statutes and regulations control conduct in California, and what follows is an overview of the similarities and differences between these two types of rules.

What Are California Statutes?

California statutes are laws enacted by the legislature and signed into law by the governor. But these steps – legislative approval and governor approval – are the last few steps in the long journey of a California statute.

A statute starts as an idea by one or more individual legislators in either the California House of Representatives or the California Senate. That idea is fleshed out, drafted into a bill and sent to a committee for consideration. It goes through a number of committee votes before it is read on the house floor. Once the house in which it starts approves the bill, it then goes to the other house where the procedure is repeated.

If both houses approve a bill, it is then sent to the California governor for consideration. The governor can sign the bill, not take any action on it or veto it. If the governor signs the bill or fails to take any action on it for a certain amount of time, it becomes law. If the governor vetoes the bill, it can still become law if the veto is overridden by a two-thirds vote in both houses.

What Are California Regulations?

Statutes do not and cannot set out all the details that describe procedure or the details related to the application and enforcement of the statutes. That is where regulations come in. Regulations are drafted by departments and administrative agencies on both the federal and the state level. Each has its areas of expertise and is charged with drafting regulations in those areas.

The idea of this rulemaking is to provide a guide to implement the intent of the legislature. Some suggest you think of it like this: legislation is a destination and regulations explain how to get there.

In California, for example, many agencies are authorized to make binding regulations to implement statutes and carry out what the agency believes is the legislative intent in enacting the statutes. Usually California agencies – like the Bureau of Land Management or the Franchise Tax Board – publish proposed regulations and then open up proceedings in which interested parties can testify about those proposals. The agency then considers the comments, edits the proposed regulations as necessary and issues a set of binding regulations.

How to Locate California Statutes and Regulations?

California statutes are codified and published. For example, you can look in the Family Code for laws about divorce or child custody, in the Penal Code for laws about crimes and in the Code of Civil Procedure for laws about how to proceed with civil cases.

Regulations in California are also codified into 28 different sub-categories, or "titles" according to subject matter, ranging from "Education" to "Harbors and Navigation." The 28 titles are published together by Thomas Reuters WestLaw in a reference called the Code of Regulations. You can find this in law libraries or consult it online at the Code of Regulations website. Most California agency websites provide a link to the Code of Regulations website, as well as the title where their regulations are located.

For example, CalRecycle is the agency charged with enacting regulations that flesh out the waste management statutes. If you visit their webpage, you can navigate your way to the waste management statutes, the current regulations (approved regulations pertaining to waste management in California from Titles 14 and 27, California Code of Regulations) and the proposed regulations (regulations being considered that you or any other interested party can comment on).

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