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Code of Massachusetts Regulations FAQ

The CMR can be difficult to use and understand. Here we summarize some of the more commonly asked questions about Massachusetts regulations.

What is the Code of Massachusetts Regulations?

The Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) contains regulations promulgated by state agencies pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (M.G.L. c. 30A). Rules and regulations form part of the body of administrative law along with administrative orders and decisions.

Why do we have regulations and what authority do they have legally?

Regulations set forth standards for public health and safety, licensing of professionals, consumer and environmental protection, among others. Regulations have the force and effect of law like statutes. They are created and enforced by executive branch agencies, which are given the rulemaking authority by the legislature.

Does the CMR contain rules and regulations from all state agencies?

No. A number of state agencies are exempt from the publication requirement of the Administrative Procedures Act (i.e. Division of Personnel Administration, Civil Service Commission, etc.)

How is the CMR organized?

The CMR is organized according to the cabinet structure of state government. Each agency is assigned a three digit title number by the Secretary of State's office. The first digit indicates the cabinet office involved. For example, environmental agencies begin with the number 3. The second and third digits specify a particular agency. The regulations are further broken down by chapter number.

Has the CMR ever been revised?

Yes. There have been three editions (1976, 1978, 1987) of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations published by the Secretary of State. The current edition was published in the spring of 1987 (reprinted in 1993/94) and contains 25 loose leaf volumes.

Are the regulations on this site up to date?

We work very hard to bring you the most current version of all regulations. When the Mass. Register is issued every two weeks, we go through it and update all the regulations that were changed. We also update emergency regulations, which are not updated in the print set. All standard and emergency regulation changes should be on our site within one week of the issuance of the Mass. Register.

For regulations which have not changed in some time, we link to the regulations that have been put up by individual agencies. For regulations which have not been put on the web by the agencies, or which have changed in the last few years, we put the regulations on our site in PDF format. To find the date of the last changes to a regulation on our site, right-click on the PDF and select Document Properties. There, you'll see the Mass. Register number and date of the last changes.

How is the CMR updated?

The CMR is updated through the biweekly Massachusetts Register.

What is the Massachusetts Register?

The register is published every two weeks by the Secretary of State. It contains executive orders by the governor, Attorney General opinions, permanent and emergency regulations, notice of public hearings, the State Register of Historic Places, and a list of recently enacted legislation. Filing instructions indicate which pages to remove from the CMR before the new permanent regulations are inserted.

What are emergency regulations and why are they important?

If an agency determines "that the immediate adoption, amendment or repeal of a regulation is necessary for the preservation of the public health, safety or general welfare, and that observance of the requirements of notice and a public hearing would be contrary to public interest, the agency may dispense with such requirements..." (M.G.L. c.30A sec. 2) Emergency regulations are not filed into the CMR and remain in effect for only three months unless they are promulgated in accordance with the rule making procedures in the Administrative Procedures Act. However, emergency regulations have the same force and effect as permanent regulations.

To determine if there is an emergency regulation currently in effect, consult the cumulative table published in each Massachusetts Register. At the top of the table, it will indicate which Mass. Registers are covered. It may be necessary to go back to an earlier Mass. Register if the table in the most recent one does not cover the last three months. The table is arranged by the CMR citation and gives the issue number of the Mass. Register and effective date of the regulation.

Where can I get the CMR or Massachusetts Register?

The CMR and Mass. Register can be purchased from the state bookstore or from LexisNexis. All of the Trial Court Law Libraries maintain an up-to-date print version of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations. Selective portions of the CMR are on the Internet. Links to the sections available on the web are accessible by citation and by subject. The CMR is also available in most legal databases, such as Lexis and Westlaw.

Are the electronic versions of CMR as good as the print version?

Surprisingly, electronic versions of the CMR, even from prestigious databases, are often not as current as the print version, which is updated every two weeks. Always check the scope or coverage information when using the CMR from a subscription database. Also the Massachusetts Register should be checked for emergency regulations. We believe our version of the CMR is more current than those offered by the traditional legal databases and, as stated above, we include emergency regulations, eliminating the need to also check the Mass. Register. See Are these regulations up to date? for more information on web sources.

Is there an index to the CMR?

Because the Secretary of State does not publish an index to the CMR, the Trial Court Law Libraries have compiled a general subject index. The print set available from LexisNexis also has a subject index.

What should I do if I need an old regulation?

Some of the Trial Court Law Libraries maintain the older editions of the CMR and superseded pages. This allows the libraries to trace the history of a regulation back and to determine the language of a regulation at a particular point in time. Call the closest Trial Court Law Library and the staff will arrange to get the information for you. The Regulations Division of the Secretary of State's office can also provide assistance with questions about the current CMR as well as regulations that are no longer in effect.

Where can I find more information about the CMR and Massachusetts Register?

The Regulations Manual, put out by the Secretary of State, is a 60-page document outlining the procedures an agency must follow when enacting new regulations. It also discusses the history of the CMR. Suffolk University has a nice page explaining more about the CMR and its use called Guide to Massachusetts Administrative Law.

For more detailed information about the Code of Massachusetts Regulations and Massachusetts Register, see Handbook of Legal Research in Massachusetts , edited by Mary Ann Neary, et al, Mass. Continuing Legal Education, 2002, and Administrative Law and Practice, Alexander J. Cella, Massachusetts Practice Series vol. 39), West, 1986.