Guide to the RICR


Rulemaking Process

Beginnings of a Rule

An agency cannot issue a Rule unless granted authority to do so by law. The law authorizing each Rule can be found under the “Overview” tab of a Rule’s page as well as in the Rulemaking Authority section of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM)

An agency may choose to employ this optional step in the rulemaking process. The ANPRM allows an agency to gather information related to the potential rulemaking action by soliciting comments and recommendations from the public before publishing a Proposed Rule and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The ANPRM indicates where, when, and how a person may submit a comment to the agency. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-2.5).

Preliminary Evaluations and Analysis

Before the rulemaking process begins, an agency must evaluate all alternative approaches, overlap or duplication with other Statutes and Rules and whether the Rule will have significant economic impact on small business.

Public Notice/Public Comment Period Begins

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)

After an agency researches the issues and determines whether a new Rule is necessary, it often proposes the new language along with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). These proposals are published in the Rhode Island Code of Regulations (RICR) and are readily accessible to the public. An NPRM contains details about the Proposed Rule including the Rule’s purpose, its statutory authority, and how the public can submit a comment or get further information about the Proposed Rule from the agency.

Public Comment Period

During this phase of the rulemaking process, agencies accept comments from the public about the Proposed Rule. Agencies may choose to accept comments directly through the RICR or by mail, fax, or email. If a public hearing is scheduled, the public can also submit comments via testimony at the hearing. In a typical case, an agency will allow thirty (30) days for public comment; however, the agency may choose to set a comment period for longer than thirty (30) days.

Public Hearing

An agency may schedule one (1) or more public hearings on a Proposed Rule. The date, time, and location of any scheduled public hearing will be listed in the NPRM. A public hearing must be scheduled at least ten (10) days from the date the NPRM is published and at least five (5) days before the comment period ends. An agency must also schedule a public hearing if the hearing is requested by twenty-five (25) people or by an organization with at least twenty-five (25) members (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-2.8).

Emergency Rulemaking

According to R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-2.10 , “If an agency finds that an imminent peril to the public health, safety, or welfare or the loss of federal funding for an agency program requires the immediate promulgation of an emergency rule …” the agency may proceed with the rulemaking action without a public comment period or public hearing. Emergency Rules come into effect once they are signed by the Governor or the Governor’s designee. These Rules are effective for up to one hundred twenty (120) days and may be extended once for an additional sixty (60) days.

End of Public Comment Period

Once the public comment period ends for a Proposed Rule, the agency reviews all comments received and evaluates whether to make logical changes to the Rule based on those comments. The agency also prepares a Concise Explanatory Statement which includes its reasons for not incorporating changes suggested by the public (if necessary) and a description of any changes made between the text of the Proposed Rule and the text of the Final Rule filed with the Department of State.

Final Rule Filed and Effective Date Set

Once the agency has prepared the Proposed Rule in its final form, they file the Final Rule with the Department of State. The Final Rule must be filed no later than one hundred eighty (180) days after the end of the public comment period. Along with the Final Rule, the agency must file the associated documents in the rulemaking record with the Department of State for publication in the Rhode Island Code of Regulations (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-2.3). Rulemaking documents can be found on a Rule’s page underneath the “Rulemaking Documents” tab.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Rhode Island Code of Regulations is the official publication of the Rules promulgated by State agencies, boards and commissions. The Department of State’s Administrative Records Office manages the RICR, which is updated daily and available to the public on our website. Each Rule published in the RICR is given a unique citation which includes numbers for the Title (a three digit number unique to the agency, board or commission), Chapter, Subchapter and Part.

A Rule is a document issued by a state agency, board or commission that interprets or implements a law or prescribes policies or practices of the agency, board or commission. A Rule has the full force and effect of law. The terms "Rule" and "Regulation" are used interchangeably.

Statutes, also called laws, are enacted by governing bodies such as the Rhode Island General Assembly or the United States Congress. Statutes may provide a State agency, board, or commission the authority to publish Rules to interpret and enforce a certain area of the law. An agency may not enforce a Rule without statutory authority.

If your question relates to the language in a Rule or how the Rule is enforced, you should contact the agency that published the Rule. Each agency is required by law to appoint a Rules Coordinator who can answer your Rules-related questions. To find contact information for an agency’s Rules Coordinator, visit that agency's “Agency Info” page. You can navigate to each “Agency Info” page from the RICR Table of Contents by clicking the Title number for the agency and then clicking the blue "View Agency Info" button.

If your question relates to the RICR or the rulemaking process or if you wish to request certified copies, please contact the Department of State’s Administrative Records Office.

There are many ways to find a Rule in the RICR. You can browse an agency's Rules by exploring the Parts listed under an agency's Chapters and Subchapters in the RICR Table of Contents. You can also use the search feature to search for keywords or a specific RICR citation, if you know it. The search feature returns results for all Rules relating to the word or phrase you entered, including Active Rules, Proposed Rules, Emergency Rules, and Inactive Rules.

The Administrative Procedures Act (APA), R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter 42-35, governs the rulemaking process. The APA dictates the steps an agency must take to publish Rules in the RICR. To learn more about the steps of the rulemaking process, click here. An agency must have statutory authority to publish and enforce a Rule. This means a State or Federal law has authorized that agency to issue Rules relating to a specific topic.

When an agency decides to adopt, amend, or repeal a Rule using the Proposed Rule method, it must publish the proposed changes for public consideration and accept comments from the public regarding those changes for at least thirty (30) days. In the RICR, Proposed Rules are clearly marked with an orange tag that says either “Proposed Rule” or “Advance Notice of Proposed Rule.” You can also search for Proposed Rules using a specific RICR citation, if you know it, or a word or phrase, if you don't. If you would like to be notified of any future changes to a particular Part, subscribe to notifications.

When an agency wishes to introduce a new regulation or make changes to an existing regulation, members of the public are given the opportunity to submit comments about the proposed regulation language. These comments help to shape the language published in the final rule. Each proposed rule is accompanied by a notice of proposed rulemaking which includes information about how to submit your comments.

For each Part in the Rhode Island Code of Regulations, the "History" tab shows the previous versions of that Part. The Department of State maintains all Proposed and Final Rules filed by state agencies, boards and commissions and provides online access to all Final Rules filed since 2002. To obtain certified copies of a Rule, please contact the Administrative Records Office: at 401-347-2186 or [email protected]

According to the Administrative Procedures Act, R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-2.3, after January 1, 2019, each Rule published in the RICR must be accompanied by several documents relating to the creation of that Rule and the public's participation in the rulemaking process including all public comments received by the agency, petitions for agency action, and public hearing transcripts. The RICR provides on-demand digital access to these documents to enhance transparency and encourage civic engagement.

Yes. Certain entities, such as the Judiciary and New England Higher Education Compact, are exempt from publishing Rules in the RICR. For a full list of exemptions, see R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-18. The Department of State is not involved in the publication of Rules outside of the RICR. To access those Rules, please contact the agency directly. You may also follow the links below:

When an agency proposes to adopt, amend, or repeal a Rule, it will include in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking details about the ways it will accept comments from the public. An agency may allow comments to be submitted directly through the RICR. When looking at a Proposed Rule, click on the "Comments" tab to view comments submitted and reviewed by the agency. To submit your own comment for consideration, click on the "Make Comment" button. You will then be able to type your comment and/or upload a prepared document. When finished, click "Submit."

No. If you need to address an error in a comment you have already submitted, please contact the agency directly. To find contact information for an agency’s contact person, see the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

When you submit a comment through the RICR, your comment is sent directly to agency personnel for review. Agencies review all comments prior to publishing their Final Rule; however, some agencies may elect not to publish a comment if it contains offensive, threatening, or mass-mail language. For more information about a comment you submitted, please contact the agency’s contact person on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

When an agency publishes a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, it indicates the beginning and the end of the public comment period. This period is also listed under the "Overview" tab for the Proposed Rule as "Filing Notice Date" and "Public Comment Dates." The public comment period end date is the last day the agency will accept comments on that Proposed Rule.

Yes. Whether you submitted your comment through the Rhode Island Code of Regulations or by email, mail, or fax, your comment will be available for public view. When an agency publishes a Final Rule with the Department of State, it also publishes a copy of each comment received during the public comment period. Each agency manages its own policy concerning processing public comments and may choose not to publish a comment if it is deemed offensive, threatening, or contains mass-mail language. Any comments deemed by the agency to be suitable for public view will be published under the Rulemaking Documents tab of a Final Rule.

You can sign up to receive email notifications for agency rulemaking activity through the RICR by clicking the “Subscribe for Notifications” button located below the search box on any page of the Code. Simply enter your email address and choose to receive notifications for one, multiple, or all agencies publishing Rules in the Code. You can also choose how frequently you would like to receive those notifications. Once you have made your selections and clicked the button marked “Subscribe,” you will receive an email with a link to confirm your subscription. Your subscription will not be active until you click that link. You can also use the “Subscribe for Notifications” button to manage your subscriptions at any time. To subscribe to notifications about a specific Part, click the button labeled “Notify Me” on the “Overview” tab for that Part.

You can unsubscribe from notifications by clicking the “unsubscribe” button in any email notification you receive. You can also use the “Subscribe for Notifications” button below the search box to manage your subscriptions at any time. You must confirm you would like to unsubscribe by clicking the link in the email sent to your email address after you click "unsubscribe."

By mail: Administrative Records Office
State Archives
33 Broad Street
Providence, RI 02903
By email: [email protected]
By telephone: (401) 347-2186

To find contact information for an agency’s Rules Coordinator, visit that agency's "Agency Info" page. You can navigate to each "Agency Info" page from the RICR Table of Contents by clicking the Title number for the agency and then clicking the blue "View Agency Info" button.

Definitions

"Administrative Procedures Act" or "APA" means R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter 42-35 which governs the way in which Rhode Island State agencies, boards and commissions may propose and publish Rules.

"Adopt" or "Adoption" means creating a new Rule.

"Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" or "ANPRM" means an optional process in which an agency chooses to gather information and solicit comments from the public before publishing a Proposed Rule. The ANPRM is published on the agency's website, and in the RICR. If an agency chooses to hold a public hearing regarding an ANPRM, the hearing must be posted to the Public Meetings database in accordance with the Open Meetings Act (R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter 42-46).

"Agency" means a department, board, commission, division, or quasi-public corporation created by the General Assembly or the Governor and authorized by statute to make and enforce Rules.

"Amend" or "Amendment" means altering, modifying, rephrasing, adding to or subtracting from an existing Rule.

"Concise Explanatory Statement" means a statement filed with the Final Rule that explains:

  1. The agency's reasons for creating the Rule;
  2. Why the agency did not make changes to the Rule in response to comments submitted, if applicable;
  3. The reasons for any change between the text of the Proposed Rule contained in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and the text of the Final Rule; and
  4. The Regulatory Analysis.

"Declaratory Order" means a document issued by an agency that states whether a statute or Rule applies to the person or entity petitioning the agency for that decision. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-8).

"Direct Final Rule" means a Rule an agency expects to be non-controversial. Just like in a normal rulemaking procedure, the agency must publish the Proposed Rule in the Rhode Island Code of Regulations and on the agency's website and open the Proposed Rule to public comment for at least thirty (30) days. If the agency receives no objection to the Proposed Rule during the public comment period, the Rule will take effect immediately. If the agency receives an objection, the Proposed Rule will not become final and the agency may choose to begin the rulemaking process again.

"Emergency Rule" means a type of rulemaking action which does not require the normal thirty (30) day public comment period or any other waiting period before the Rule takes effect. To file an Emergency Rule, an agency must find that there is imminent danger to public health, safety, or welfare or the potential loss of federal funding for an agency program. The agency must publish the reasons for that finding in the Rhode Island Code of Regulations and on its website. The Emergency Rule takes effect once it is signed by the Agency Head and the Governor or the Governor's designee. The Emergency Rule may be effective for a maximum of one hundred twenty (120) days, renewable once for a maximum of sixty (60) days.

"Final Rule" means a Rule an agency promulgates in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act (R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter 42-35). A Final Rule is currently or was at one time in effect and enforceable by the agency. Final Rules may be labeled as an adoption, amendment, or repeal, and further as an Emergency or Direct Final Rule.

"Guidance Document" means a document issued by an agency not subject to the publishing requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act (R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter 42-35). Unlike a Rule, a Guidance Document lacks the force of law. A Guidance Document describes the agency's approach to or interpretation of a statute and explains how and when the agency will exercise discretionary functions.

"Hearing" or "Public Hearing" means a meeting on the topic of a Proposed Rule which is open to the public. At a hearing, members of the public are invited to give testimony or otherwise submit comments on a Proposed Rule. The hearing is recorded and kept as part of the rulemaking record for that rule. For each Proposed Rule, a public hearing may not be scheduled earlier than ten (10) days after the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is published in the Rhode Island Code of Regulations and may not be scheduled later than five (5) days prior to the end of the public comment period.

"Incorporation by Reference" means an agency is including a document as part of the Rule by naming the document and stating that it is incorporated by reference. When an agency incorporates a document by reference, the entire document becomes a part of the Rule. For example, if an agency incorporates a Federal Regulation by reference, all of the text of that Regulation becomes part of the Rhode Island Rule enforceable by that agency.

"Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" means a document published in the Rhode Island Code of Regulations relating to a Proposed Rule. The notice of Proposed Rulemaking must contain:
  1. The purpose of the Proposed Rule;
  2. A reference to the statutory authority for the Rule;
  3. How the public can access a copy of the complete Regulatory Analysis;
  4. Details about how a person can submit a comment on the Proposed Rule, including the beginning and end dates of the public comment period;
  5. The date the Notice of the Proposed Rulemaking is filed in the Rhode Island Code of Regulations;
  6. Details about any study or report that was considered in the formulation of the Proposed Rule, including how a person can access a copy of the study or report; and
  7. A summary of any Regulatory Analysis prepared prior to publishing the Proposed Rule for public comment.

"Part" means a Rule in its entirety. Each Rule in the Rhode Island Code of Regulations is assigned a unique Part number.

"Promulgate" means adopting a new Rule or amending or repealing an existing Rule. The typical promulgation process begins with the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and ends when the Rule becomes a Final effective Rule. Promulgate is also used in the Emergency rulemaking process.

"Proposed Rule" means the text of a Rule that is in the public comment period stage and has not yet been filed as a Final Rule. A Proposed Rule will include any new language underlined and any removed language struck through.

"Public Comment Period" means a period of at least thirty (30) days after publication of the Notice of the Proposed Rulemaking during which a person may submit comments on the Proposed Rule.

"Regulatory Analysis" means a document that includes:
  1. A careful consideration of the benefit and cost of the Rule as proposed and of possible alternate versions of the Proposed Rule; and
  2. A determination that the Rule as proposed represents the most effective and least burdensome method of fulfilling the purpose of the Rule.

"Repeal" means revoking an existing Rule. When a Rule is repealed, it is no longer enforceable by the agency and the Rule becomes inactive.

"Rule" or "Regulation" means a document which has the force of law, has general applicability outside of the agency, and implements agency policy or otherwise interprets the law which gives that agency Rulemaking Authority. The terms "Rule" and "Regulation" are used interchangeably.

"Rulemaking Agenda" means a collection of details relating to all Rules an agency is currently proposing to adopt, amend, or repeal. The information required for the Rulemaking Agenda is available in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for each Proposed Rule.

"Rules Coordinator" means the designated individual at an agency who has knowledge of the agency's Proposed Rules and Active Rules and responds to questions from the public regarding those Rules. The Rules Coordinator is also responsible for maintaining all records relating to the agency's rulemaking actions.

"Statutory Authority" means the state or federal law which enables an agency to make and enforce Rules on a topic. An agency may not publish a Rule for which it does not have statutory authority.

"Technical Revision" means a correction to an existing Rule which does not change the substantive meaning or intent of that Rule. Technical Revisions are processed to correct typographical, grammatical, or formatting errors in a Final Rule.