Regulations are made through a process called notice-and-comment rulemaking. In California's version of this process:
- The agency publishes a notice of the proposed regulation in the Notice Register (also nicknamed the Z Register). The notice must include an informative digest that explains in plain English what the regulation does, why it is being made, and its anticipated impact. The notice must explain where to obtain the proposed text of the regulation and the initial statement of reasons (ISOR), a more detailed explanation of why the regulation is being made and its anticipated impact.
- The notice must also include information on where to submit comments on the regulation, including the name and contact information for an agency staff member and the time and location of any public hearings.
- If the agency decides to change the regulation in response to public comments, the agency must publish a notice of the changes and provide the public with additional time to submit comments.
- Once the agency is satisfied with the regulation, the agency updates the informative digest and prepares a Final Statement of Reasons (FSOR) that updates the information in the ISOR, summarizes and responds to public comments, and provides additional specified information on the regulation's anticipated impact.
- The Notice Register publishes a final notice of the regulation's adoption and the final text of the regulation is mailed out in the weekly Register, a pamphlet of hole punched pages. The California Code of Regulations is published in loose leaf binders. Each week, outdated pages are ripped out of the Code and thrown away and the new pages from the Register are inserted.
Simplified processes may be followed for:
- Emergency regulations, which remain in effect for 180 days plus up to two 90 day extensions while the agency completes the full rulemaking process.
- Changes without regulatory effect, which make changes such as fixing typos or updating citations to regulations and statutes that have moved and are made without any formal process.
A special California agency called the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) is responsible for making sure that other agencies follow the rulemaking process. The OAL may issue:
- Underground regulation determinations, determining that a rule the agency is enforcing informally is actually a regulation and must be either abandoned or passed formally through notice-and-comment rulemaking.
- Disapproval decisions, issued at the end of the notice-and-comment rulemaking process and rejecting regulations if the agency has failed to properly follow the process, such as by allowing inadequate time for public comment.