Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

New York Research In-Depth

This guide explains the process of making laws and regulations in the state of New York.

1. GOVERNOR AND LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR

The executive power of the State is vested in the governor, who shall hold office for four years, according to Article IV, § 1 of the New York State Constitution. The governor and lieutenant-governor shall be chosen jointly through a general election held every four years.

Powers and duties of the governor:

  • Convenes the legislature and submits a proposed budget for the following fiscal year to the legislature
  • Communicates by message to the legislature at every session the condition of the State
  • Considers, approves or vetoes, each bill passed by the legislature
  • Serves as commander-in-chief of the military and naval forces of the State

In case of the removal of the governor from office or of his or her death or resignation, the lieutenant-governor becomes governor for the remainder of the term.

The website of the Office of the Governor includes important documents such as the annual budget address and the State of the State address, both delivered in January each year. Additional materials from the governor's office, such as executive orders, are discussed below in part 4 of this section.

2. REGULATIONS

The rule-making process of executive departments and administrative agencies is governed by the State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA), rules of the Secretary of State, and procedures and guidelines found in Rule Making in New York by the New York State Department of State. The Departments of Health, Education, Insurance, Environmental Conservation, Labor, Banking, Agriculture and Markets, and the divisions of Housing and Community Renewal and the Workers' Compensation Board are required by Section 202-d of SAPA to submit a regulatory agenda briefly describing the subject matter being considered for rule making and information on the contact person at the agency. A proposed rule is first reviewed by the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform (GORR). Then, the agency will file the proposed rule with the Secretary of State and other required reviewing entities. A Notice of Proposed Rule Making is published in the State Register. (The Office of Court Administration and the Judiciary are exempt from SAPA requirements requiring proposal review notices in the State Register.) Comments will be received and considered, and changes to the proposed rule may be made. The final rule is filed with the Secretary of State (as required by the Constitution) and a Notice of Adoption is required by SAPA to be published in the State Register.Eventually, the rule is published in the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations. A 1938 amendment to the New York Constitution requires speedy publication of final regulations.

The Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) is New York's equivalent of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). It contains the full text of the State's current regulations. Rules become legally effective when a certified copy of the rule is filed with the Secretary of State and the notice of adoption is published in the State Register. If there is any inconsistency between the official NYCRR and such codes, rules and regulations as filed with the Secretary of State, the latter shall prevail.

The NYCRR consists of eighty-three loose-leaf volumes containing codes, rules, regulations, and official forms, and a two-volume loose-leaf index. There are twenty-two titles in the NYCRR. The first twenty titles are named after the twenty executive departments. Title 21 contains the regulations of authorities, boards and commissions. Title 22 contains court rules. Each title is subdivided as follows: Title > Subtitles (if any) > Chapters > Subchapters (if any) > Parts > Sections.

There is normally a delay of about four months between the date a rule becomes effective and the date when it is published in the NYCRR. Because the State Register includes very few full-text versions of new regulations, a researcher will have to contact directly the agency that promulgated the new regulations to get the full text if it has not been included in the NYCRR. The name, address, and telephone number of the agency responsible for any regulation are available in the associated Notice of Proposed Rule Making.

Published by West, the NYCRR includes annotations under an orange tab at the back of each binder. Annotations include "summaries of court cases and administrative opinions, orders, or decisions that, in the opinion of the publisher's staff of lawyer-editors, interpret, construe, apply or otherwise address the rules and regulations published in this binder."

Where to find New York Regulations

New York State Register (State Register)

The weekly New York State Register replaced the New York State Bulletin in April 1979. Article 6-A, §§ 145-49 of the Executive Law governs the publication, contents and indexing of the State Register. The State Register publishes the following:

  • Notices concerning rule-making activities, such as Notices of Proposed Rule Making and Notices of Adoption
  • Summaries of proposed regulations
  • Text of new court rules
  • Executive orders of the governor
  • Various financial notices
  • Lists of abandoned property
  • Notices of securities offerings
  • Advertisements for bidders/contractors
  • Miscellaneous notices

A "quarterly index" is published to show the status of every rule-making action in the calendar year. Unlike the Federal Register, the State Register contains the text of very few proposed regulations. Only proposed regulations that contain fewer than 2,000 words are required (at the discretion of the agency) to be published in the State Register.

Section 202-d of SAPA requires that the Departments of Health, Education, Insurance, Environmental Conservation, Labor, Banking, Agriculture and Markets, and the divisions of Housing and Community Renewal and the Workers' Compensation Board submit to the Secretary of State "regulatory agenda" consisting of a brief description of the subject matters being considered for rule making and information on the contact person at the agency, to be published in the first issue of the State Register every January and the last issue of the State Register every June.

How to Track the Status of Proposed Regulations

How to Find the Intent of Regulations

Notices of Proposed Rule Making and Notices of Adoption published in the State Register are the only official sources that shed light on the intent of rules and regulations. Use the "Historical Note" following the text of a rule in the NYCRR to find the date on which the adopted rule was filed with the Department of State. The Notice of Adoption should have appeared in the State Register within a few weeks of the date of filing. From the Notice of Adoption, you can find the brief summary of the purpose of the rule, contact information for obtaining the text of rule, as well as the filing and effective date. From the Notice of Proposed Rule Making, you can find again the brief summary of the purpose of the rule, a summary of the substance of proposed rule, and contact information for obtaining the text of the proposed rule and any required statements and analyses.

Where to find the State Register

3. ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS, OPINIONS, AND RULINGS

Like their rule-making power, the "judiciary-like" power of administrative agencies is derived from statutes that govern the agencies. Administrative decisions, opinions and rulings are not necessarily easy to find because many agencies publish their decisions and opinions selectively; titles of the agency publications and even the name and responsibilities of the agencies frequently change. Since administrative decisions, opinions and rulings are public records, researchers can request them from the agencies under the Freedom of Information Law, N.Y. Pub.Off. Law § 87 (2000).

Where to find Administrative Decisions, Opinions, and Rulings

4. EXECUTIVE ORDERS

Executive orders are issued by the governor to direct or instruct the actions of executive agencies or government officials. For example, Governor George Pataki's Executive Order No. 131 established the New York State Commission on Education Reform, and Executive Order No. 119 declared a disaster in Clinton and Essex Counties and contiguous counties and areas.

Executive orders issued since 1960 are published in the State Register and are cumulated in NYCRR Title 9, Subtitle A, Chapter I (Part 1: Nelson A. Rockefeller, Part 2: Malcolm A. Wilson, Part 3: Hugh L. Carey, Part 4: Mario M. Cuomo, Part 5: George E. Pataki, Part 6: Eliot Spitzer, Part 7: David A. Paterson).

Executive orders issued before 1960 are included in compilations of the public papers of the governors.

Where to find Executive Orders