Federal Register

Federal Register in the United States

Introduction to Federal Register

Federal Register, published log of rules and regulations issued by the United States government before they go into effect. The Federal Register also prints information on the activities of every U.S. government agency.” (1)

The Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and a related publication, the Federal Register, contain rules and regulations which have been promulgated by administrative agencies of the federal government. The C.F.R. is related to the Federal Register in the same way that the U.S.C. is related to the Statutes at Large. The Federal Register is issued chronologically and the C.F.R. is arranged by subject. The Federal Register is issued each day following a federal government working day. Published since 1936, the Federal Register fulfills the notice requirement for
administrative rules of general application. It is more comprehensive than the C.F.R. In addition to final rules, the Federal Register contains proposed rules, notices, and other supplementary material.

Look in the last issue of the Federal Register of each month since the last monthly L.S.A., ending with the latest issue of the current month. At the back of each issue of the Federal Register is a list called “Reader’s Aids” of CFR sections affected during that month.

Legal Materials

The Federal Register is the publication-of-record for U.S. government agencies. Most importantly, all new regulations must be published in the Register before they go into effect. Final regulations are subsequently codified in the Code of Federal Regulations.

The Federal Register started publication in 1936 and is published each business day by the Office of the Federal Register. Some law libraries keep the hard copy back several years, and some keep back issues on microfiche, but most just use the following online editions.

  • Subscription-based online editions are available from: Hein Online, in PDF format (1936 to present), Proquest Congressional (1977 to present), LOIS (1999 to present), and CQ (1997 to present).
  • Online editions billed on a per-search or per-minute basis are available from:
    • Westlaw (FR-ALL – 1936 to present; FR – 1981 to present; FR-OLD – 1936 to 1980). Pre-1981 documents come in PDF format, at an additional charge; and
    • Lexis (GENFED;FEDREG), covering July 1, 1980 to present.

On Lexis and Westlaw, the format for pulling Federal Register sections is “56 fr 16048”.

Indexing: The Register includes a cumulative monthly index arranged by agency, with the December index covering the entire year. For subject indexing, the CIS Federal Register Index covers 1984 to 1998. Otherwise, search a full-text database (for recent regs) or try to locate relevant regulations in a CCH Reporter (see “Commerce Clearing House”), which would probably give you Federal Register.

Page Numbers: The Federal Register has only one pagination system; it’s theCongressional Record that has two.

Preambles: Starting around 1947, proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register with summaries called “Preambles” either before or after the text of the regulation. Summaries were often published after the text of final regulations in the 1960s, and as of 1973, final regulations include summaries before the text. As of April 1, 1977, the preamble must also include summaries of the comments on the proposed rules received by the agency.

Statement of Considerations: The term “Statement of Considerations” or “SOCs” (pronounced “socks”) effectively means the preamble, appendices and other materials that the agency published in the Federal Register before and after proposed and final regulations that created and amended a CFR section. I have heard the term used only with regard to regulations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Tracking: You can have the Table of Contents of the Federal Register sent to you each day for free. You can set up free alerts using the Justia Regulation Tracker, or use a subscription service such as Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomber Law, or CQ (requires add-on subscription). For more information, see The Government Domain: New & Free Regulations Trackers by Peggy Garvin.

Upcoming Issues: If you are asked to find something in the Federal Register but it doesn’t seem to be there yet, check to see if the material is scheduled for publication at a future date. The National Archives and Records Administration posts a list of Federal Register Documents on Public Inspection that provides the date new notices and regulations will be published in the Federal Register. If that doesn’t work, call the Office of the Federal Register and ask for assistance (202-741-6000).

Note: Once an agency issues regulations there is always some lag time before the regs are published in the Federal Register. The Office of the Federal Register (OFR) is required to published regs within three or four business days after they are received from the agency (1 CFR 17.2), but the agencies generally take a few days to get the regs to the OFR. Generally the whole process takes one to two weeks. During that time, the OFR is not allowed to comment and can not say when the document will become available, per 1 CFR 17.1.

More Information: For more information, see A Research Guide to the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations by Richard J. McKinney.

Legislation that affect Federal Register Publication

This entry also lists laws that are applicable to determine what documents a U.S. agency may need to publish in the Federal Register, or the procedures the agency will use to publish in the Federal Register, or the procedures the agency will use to conduct a rulemaking. These laws are:

  • Federal Register Act (44 U.S.C. chapter 15)
  • Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. subchapter II)
  • Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. appendix)
  • Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552)
  • Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a)
  • Government in the Sunshine Act (5 U.S.C. 552b(e)(3))
  • Negotiated Rulemaking Act (5 U.S.C. 561 et seq.)
  • Small Business Regulatory Fairness Enforcement Act (5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.)
  • Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)
  • Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

The Federal Register Act and the Freedom of Information Act require that documents published
in the Federal Register be official agency actions.

The Federal Register Act (44 U.S.C. chapter 15) requires publication of the following documents
in the Federal Register:

  • Presidential proclamations and Executive orders, except those not having general
    applicability and legal effect or effective only against Federal agencies or persons in their
    capacity as officers, agents, or employees of a Federal agency. For purposes of the act,
    every document that prescribes a penalty has general applicability and legal effect.
  • Documents or classes of documents that the President may determine from time to time to
    have general applicability and legal effect.
  • Documents or classes of documents that may be required to be published by Act of
    Congress.
  • Documents authorized to be published by regulations except for comments and news
    items.

The Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) requires publication of the following documents
in the Federal Register:

  • Descriptions of central and field organizations of each Federal agency;
  • Descriptions of the course and method by which each Federal agency’s functions are
    channeled and determined;
  • Rules of procedure and a description of forms available;
  • Substantive rules of general applicability;
  • Statements of general policy or interpretations of general applicability; and
  • Each amendment, revision, or repeal of the above materials.

The Freedom of Information Act also authorizes the Director of the Federal Register to approve
the incorporation by reference of eligible material in the Federal Register.

The regulations of the Administrative Committee of the Federal Register provide that whenever
the Director of the Federal Register finds that publication of a document would be in the public
interest, the document may be published in the Federal Register.

CFR Regulation: Subchapter B: The Federal Register

Code of Federal Regulations

Part – 5 General

Sec.5.1 Publication policy.
5.2 Documents required to be filed for public inspection and published.
5.3 Publication of other documents.
5.4 Publication not authorized.
5.5 Supplement to the Code of Federal Regulations.
5.6 Daily publication.
5.7 Delivery and mailing.
5.8 Form of citation.
5.9 Categories of documents.
5.10 Forms of publication.

Authority:
44 U.S.C. 1506; sec. 6, E.O. 10530, 19 FR 2709; 3 CFR, 1954-1958 Comp., p. 189.

Source:
37 FR 23604, Nov. 4, 1972, unless otherwise noted.

§ 5.1 Publication policy.
(a) Pursuant to chapter 15 of title 44, United States Code, and this chapter, the Director of the Federal Register shall publish a serial publication called the Federal Register to contain the following:
(1) Executive orders, proclamations, and other Presidential documents.
(2) Documents required to be published therein by law.
(3) Documents accepted for publication under § 5.3.
(b) Each document required or authorized to be filed for publication shall be published in the Federal Register as promptly as possible, within limitations imposed by considerations of accuracy, usability, and reasonable costs.
(c) In prescribing regulations governing headings, preambles, effective dates, authority citations, and similar matters of form, the Administrative Committee does not intend to affect the validity of any document that is filed and published under law.

§ 5.2 Documents required to be filed for public inspection and published.
The following documents are required to be filed for public inspection with the Office of the Federal Register and published in the Federal Register:

(a) Presidential proclamations and Executive orders in the numbered series, and each other document that the President submits for publication or orders to be published.

(b) Each document or class of documents required to be published by act of Congress.

(c) Each document having general applicability and legal effect.
[37 FR 23604, Nov. 4, 1972, as amended at 54 FR 9676, Mar. 7, 1989]

§ 5.3 Publication of other documents.
Whenever the Director of the Federal Register considers that publication of a document not covered by § 5.2 would be in the public interest, the Director may allow that document to be filed for public inspection with the Office of the Federal Register and published in the Federal Register. [54 FR 9676, Mar. 7, 1989]

§ 5.4 Publication not authorized.
(a) Chapter 15 of title 44, United States Code, does not apply to treaties, conventions, protocols, or other international agreements, or proclamations thereof by the President.
(b) Chapter 15 of title 44, United States Code, prohibits the publication in the Federal Register of comments or news items.
(c) The Director of the Federal Register may not accept any document for filing and publication unless it is the official action of the agency concerned. Chapter 15 of title 44, United States Code, does not authorize or require the filing and publication of other papers from an agency.

§ 5.5 Supplement to the Code of Federal Regulations.
The Federal Register serves as a daily supplement to the Code of Federal Regulations. Each document that is subject to codification and published in a daily issue shall be keyed to the Code of Federal Regulations.

§ 5.6 Daily publication.
There shall be an edition of the Federal Register published for each official Federal working day.
[54 FR 9676, Mar. 7, 1989]

§ 5.7 Delivery and mailing.
The Government Printing Office shall distribute the Federal Register by delivery or by deposit at a post office at or before 9 a.m. on the publication day, except that each Federal Register dated for a Monday shall be deposited at a post office at or before 9 a.m. on the preceding Saturday.

§ 5.8 Form of citation.
Without prejudice to any other form of citation, Federal Register material may be cited by volume and page number, and the short form “FR” may be used for “Federal Register”. For example, “37 FR 6803” refers to material beginning on page 6803 of volume 37 of the daily issues.

§ 5.9 Categories of documents.
Each document published in the Federal Register shall be placed under one of the following categories, as indicated:

(a) The President. This category contains each Executive order or Presidential proclamation and each other Presidential document that the President submits for publication or orders to be published.
(b) Rules and regulations. This category contains each document having general applicability and legal effect, except those covered by paragraph (a) of this section. This category includes documents subject to codification, general policy statements concerning regulations, interpretations of agency regulations, statements of organization and function, and documents that affect other documents previously published in the rules and regulations section.
(c) Proposed rules. This category contains each notice of proposed rulemaking submitted pursuant to section 553 of title 5, United States Code, or any other law, which if promulgated as a rule, would have general applicability and legal effect. This category includes documents that suggest changes to regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations, begin a rulemaking proceeding, and affect or relate to other documents previously published in the proposed rules section.
(d) Notices. This category contains miscellaneous documents applicable to the public and not covered by paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of this section. This category includes announcements of meetings and other information of public interest. [37 FR 23604, Nov. 4, 1972, as amended at 54 FR 9676, Mar. 7, 1989]
§ 5.10 Forms of publication.
Pursuant to section 1506 of title 44, United States Code, the Administrative Committee publishes the Federal Register in the following formats: paper; microfiche; and online on GPO Access (44 U.S.C. 4101). [61 FR 68118, Dec. 27, 1996]

Part – 6 Indexes and Ancillaries

Sec.6.1 Index to daily issues.
6.2 Analytical subject indexes.
6.3 Daily lists of parts affected.
6.4 Monthly list of sections affected.
6.5 Indexes, digests, and guides.

Authority:
44 U.S.C. 1506; sec. 6, E.O. 10530, 19 FR 2709; 3 CFR, 1954-1958 Comp., p. 189.

Source:
37 FR 23605, Nov. 4, 1972, unless otherwise noted.
§ 6.1 Index to daily issues.
Each daily issue of the Federal Register shall be appropriately indexed.
§ 6.2 Analytical subject indexes.
Analytical subject indexes covering the contents of the Federal Register shall be published as currently as practicable and shall be cumulated and separately published at least once each calendar year.
§ 6.3 Daily lists of parts affected.
(a) Each daily issue of the Federal Register shall carry a numerical list of the parts of the Code of Federal Regulations specifically affected by documents published in that issue.
(b) Beginning with the second issue of each month, each daily issue shall also carry a cumulated list of the parts affected by documents published during that month.
§ 6.4 Monthly list of sections affected.
A monthly list of sections of the Code of Federal Regulations affected shall be separately published on a cumulative basis during each calendar year. The list shall identify the sections of the Code specifically affected by documents published in the Federal Register during the period it covers.
§ 6.5 Indexes, digests, and guides.
(a) The Director of the Federal Register may order the preparation and publication of indexes, digests, and similar guides, based on laws, Presidential documents, regulatory documents, and notice materials published by the Office, which will serve users of the Federal Register. Indexes, digests, and similar guides will be published yearly or at other intervals as necessary to keep them current and useful.
(b) Each index, digest, and guide is considered to be a special edition of the Federal Register whenever the public need requires special printing or special binding in substantial numbers.
[54 FR 9676, Mar. 7, 1989]

Federal Register Background

Federal Housing and Development–Federal Register Database

This is a database related to interests in and transfers of real estate, in the following material: Administrative Materials. A description of this real estate database is provided below:

Documents from the Federal Register that relate to housing, as found in the Housing and Development Reporter Reference Files. Coverage begins with January 1981.

Further information on United States legal research databases, including real property databases, are provided following the former link.

Federal Register in the Context of Law Research

The Thurgood Marshall School of Law Library defined briefly Federal Register as: A daily publication in which U.S. administrative agencies publish their regulations for public comment.Legal research resources, including Federal Register, help to identify the law that governs an activity and to find materials that explain that law.

Federal Register

Find more information on Federal Register in relation to the Customs Trade Law in the legal Encyclopedias.

Federal Register and the International Trade Law

69 Federal Register 16873-01 Explained

Resources

Notes and References

  1. Information about Federal Register in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia

See Also

Further Reading

  • Federal Register entry in the Dictionary of International Trade Law (Raj Bhala)
  • Federal Register entry in the Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History (Thomas Carson; Mary Bonk)
  • Federal Register entry in the Dictionary of International Trade
  • Federal Register entry in the Dictionary of International Trade: Handbook of the Global Trade Community (Edward G. Hinkelman)

Further Reading (Books)

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Office of the Federal Register. Home Page at http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/index.html

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Office of the Federal Register, “U.S. Government Manual 2000-2001.” U.S. Government, 2000.

Wickliffe, Jim and Sowada, Ernie. The Federal Register: What It Is and How to Use It. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration, 1992.

Further Reading (Articles)

Federal Registers are not just rampant regulations.(Commentary)(Editorials)(Letters), The Washington Times (Washington, DC); January 25, 1997

H.R. 4195, Federal Register Modernization Act, States News Service; April 1, 2014

On-line Federal Register access offers help., Physician’s Payment Update; March 1, 1997

‘Federal Register’ Marks 70th Anniversary, NPR Weekend All Things Considered; March 25, 2006; DEBBIE ELLIOTT

The Federal Register on CD-ROM, Information Today; December 1, 1992; Griffith, Cary

GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, NATIONAL ARCHIVES LAUNCH FEDERAL REGISTER 2.0, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; July 27, 2010

Online Congressional Record, Federal Register Service Debuts, Information Today; July 1, 1994

National Archives Office of the Federal Register Hosts 1st Pki Conference, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; March 17, 2014

National Archives Office of the Federal Register Offers New Online Training, States News Service; May 5, 2014

National Archives Office of the Federal Register Hosts First Pki Conference, States News Service; March 13, 2014

FEDERAL REGISTER NOW PRINTED BY GPO ON 100% RECYCLED PAPER., States News Service; October 26, 2009

WHITE HOUSE ANNOUNCES FEDERAL REGISTER 2.0: TRANSFORMING CHRONICLE OF EXECUTIVE BRANCH FOR 21ST CENTURY., States News Service; October 5, 2009

STATE DEPT.: U.S. FEDERAL REGISTER CELEBRATES 70 YEARS OF INFORMING CITIZENS, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; March 15, 2006

FEDERAL REGISTER ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF NEW ELECTRONIC PUBLIC INSPECTION DESK, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; November 19, 2008

FEDERAL REGISTER 2.0 HONORED FOR INNOVATION AND BEST PRACTICES IN GOVERNMENT, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; December 16, 2011

Archivist of the United States Appoints New Federal Register Director, States News Service; July 23, 2012

Happy 70th Birthday, Federal Register!, AP Online; March 14, 2006; DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Writer

NATIONAL ARCHIVES OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL REGISTER AND GPO INTRODUCE USER-FRIENDLY DATA TOOL., States News Service; August 17, 2011

The Federal Register Turns 70, The Washington Post; March 7, 2006; Cindy Skrzycki

GPO PRINTS FEDERAL REGISTER ON 100 PERCENT RECYCLED PAPER, US Fed News Service, Including US State News; October 27, 2009

Federal Register: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Federal Register. This part provides references, in relation to Federal Register, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Federal Register by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Federal Register and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Federal Register or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Federal Register and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Federal Register. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Federal Register should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Federal Register when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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