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Researching Minnesota Agency Regulations

The regulations issued by Minnesota's administrative agencies are compiled and published in Minnesota Rules. This is Minnesota's equivalent to the Code of Federal Regulations, which publishes the regulations of the federal agencies. While the terms "rules" and "regulations" are often used interchangeably, Minnesota uses "rules" for its official publications.

Rules are delegated legislation, which means that the state legislature has given an administrative agency specific authority to make rules in a certain area that have the force of law. Rules can also be repealed by the agency, suspended by the legislature or overruled by the courts.

The Statements of Need and Reasonableness (SONARs), prepared by the agency as part of the rulemaking process, are available from the agency. The Legislative Reference Library has also collected them in an online archive since 2006.

For more information about rulemaking, see the House Research publications: Rulemaking: Process for Adopting Rules, Rulemaking: Expedited Process and Exemptions, and Rulemaking: Review of Adopted Rules.

Researching Current Rules

Minnesota Rules is published by the Revisor of Statutes and has many of the same features as Minnesota Statutes: organization into chapters by subject; a single, consistent numbering system; and an index and other finding aids. Bound volumes are published every odd year, with pocket supplements in between. The State Register, published weekly, prints new and proposed regulations. The table of "Minnesota Rules: Amendments and Additions" allows the researcher to quickly update a rule by its number. Check the explanatory material to see which issues contain the complete cumulative tables for the quarter and year.

The current statutes and rules are also available online, as is the State Register. An online archive collects the older publications of Minnesota Rules back to back to the 1982 reprint.

Rules Before 1983

Minnesota Rules was first published in 1983 and the State Register in 1976. Before that, publication of rules varied. Each agency originally published its own rules. Rules filed with the Secretary of State or Department of Administration were published in pamplet form. Between 1970 and 1983, there were several resources that attempted to collect all these rules together. The first was Minnesota State Regulations (1970-1976), which was later re-titled Manual of State Agency Rules (1976-77). The Minnesota Code of Agency Rules (MCAR), published from 1977 to 1982, was a more ambitious attempt at a uniform system of publication, but it never succeeded in creating a unified numbering system. The Minnesota Code of Agency Rules Reprint (1982) collected all rules in effect on September 15, 1982, to serve as a standard resource during the transition to Minnesota Rules.

Until the Reprint, rules were updated by removing sections of pages from the binder and replacing them with new pages. As a result, it was not always clear what the date of a specific part of the publication was or when a particular regulation became effective. In addition, since no specific library was charged with the responsibility for collecting these individual publications, much of the historical record has been lost.

Finding Older Rules

The individual agency that made the rules kept copies of them. Rules that had to be filed with the Secretary of State were also kept in that office. After 1983, the Secretary of State's office transferred its archives to the Minnesota Historical Society. Any agency files should have also been transferred.

Today, older rules, if they have not been lost completely, may be found in the older print publications (MSLL has retained a fairly complete set) or at the Minnesota Historical Society.

The Secretary of State's Office kept cards on which they recorded the dates when changes to rules were made. These cards can sometimes be useful in tracking the timing of various rule amendments.

The Historical Society has cataloged its rules collections in both its State Archives and the Research Center Library. Items in these separate collections will appear slightly different in the Minnesota Historical Society catalog. The Research Center catalogs each rule individually and gives it a Library of Congress call number. The State Archives catalogs the rules as a series, without call numbers. These catalog entries refer the researcher to the State Archives Notebooks, which are located in the Research Center. The State Archives has two sets or series - one from the Secretary of State and the other from the Attorney General. These two series total more than 80 cubic feet of material.

Minnesota State Law Library: Researching Minnesota Agency Regulations

Last updated on March 11, 2015.
Links checked on January 13, 2015.

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