Administrative Procedures Act (APA)

Overview of Rhode Island Administrative Rulemaking

Scrabble tiles spell out "rules."

The Rhode Island Administrative Procedures Act (APA, RIGL §42-35-1, et seq.) governs agency rulemaking, including how state agencies propose and promulgate regulations. Every state rulemaking entity, unless exempt under statute (the legislature and judiciary are exempt per RIGL §42-35-1(1)), is subject to the APA.

The purposes of the APA include:

  • keeping the public informed of agency rulemaking activities,
  • providing the opportunity for public participation in the development of regulations,
  • establishing uniform standards for the conduct of formal rulemaking, and
  • improving the quality of state regulations

Certain types of rulemaking do not fall under “regular rulemaking.” These include emergency rulemaking (RIGL §42-35-2.10 - State agencies may take prompt regulatory action in instances of imminent peril to the public or loss of federal funding) and direct final rules (RIGL §42-35-2.11 - State agencies may accelerate the rulemaking process for rules which are expected to be noncontroversial). These types of rulemaking can only be pursued in the specific circumstances, as determined by agency legal counsel and leadership.

In 2016, the R.I. General Assembly updated the APA requiring all regulatory agencies to codify and update their regulations. The new law requires all regulations to be reformatted, indexed, and published online on the Secretary of State website as the Rhode Island Code of Regulations (RICR). In addition, the law requires that all state agencies repeal outdated or obsolete rules and consolidate and amend regulations to improve the clarity of the requirements.

Rulemaking Procedures

State agencies must use a prescribed process for creating regulations. Agencies must designate a rules coordinator (RIGL §42-35-2.1) who is responsible for managing the rulemaking process. Most rulemaking will fall under "regular rulemaking", which under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) requires notice and comment. The steps of the rulemaking process include:

Step 1: Regulatory Preparation and Analysis

Step 2: Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (optional step)

Step 3: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Public Comment Period

  • The regulatory process starts with the preparation of a preliminary version of the regulation. Agencies must submit regulatory proposals and analysis to the Office of Regulatory Reform (ORR) for approval.
  • Before the formal rulemaking process begins, state agencies can, if they so choose, solicit the public for comments and recommendations by posting an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
  • State agencies must notify the public of all regulatory changes before they happen and must also allow the public an opportunity to comment on these changes.
  • After the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, agencies must specify a Public Comment Period of at least 30 days during which the public may submit information and comments.
  • An agency may then choose to hold a hearing or the public may request a hearing.
    • Opportunity for a public hearing must be granted if a request is received by 25 persons, a governmental agency, or by an association having not less than 25 members.
  • All proposed rules and regulations along with a brief description of rule changes and notice of public hearings are filed with the Office of the Secretary of State.

Step 4: Finalizing Regulations and Filing with the Office of the Secretary of State

  • State agencies must consider all submissions received during the Public Comment Period. Agencies may incorporate or reject comments and must note the reasons for their actions. If changes to a regulation are substantial, an agency may decide to extend the Public Comment Period or restart the rulemaking process. After the regulations are finalized they are submitted, with any comments, to the Office of Regulatory Reform (ORR) for one final post-comment review.
  • After ORR approval, each agency may then file their final regulations with the Office of the Secretary of State.

The announcements of the most current notice of proposed rules and regulations, scheduled public hearings and enacted regulations can be found on the following website pages.