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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall

How to write a regulation

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Do you need a regulation?

To determine if you need a regulation, consider the following questions or issues:

Getting Started

Your goal is to craft a regulation with clear and simple language that is logically organized, accomplishes its purpose with no unintended consequences, permits and facilitates day-to-day agency decisions, and sustains and protects the agency in the event the regulation is challenged in a court of law.
Now put your mind in a brainstorming mode. Consider the following questions before you start writing:

Putting pen to paper

First, look at the following suggestions on how to write a user-friendly. This federal website has a really good handbook on writing user friendly documents. These are links to particular sections.

Think about the big picture.

Start with big general topics and work down to smaller specific ones. It is very easy to get lost in the details, so you may wish to prepare an outline of your big topics. An outline will permit you to sort through the big topics and rearrange them into a more logical order before you delve into the details. Also, if someone else in your agency will actually be writing the major substance of the regulation, an outline of large topics will help to focus his writing.

Get everything down on paper.

At this stage, the objective is to include everything in the regulation that may need to be addressed. Content omissions can be especially troublesome and executive branch reviewers do not always pick up on these. It is better to insert something you are not sure about and later delete it, than to leave it out and realize after implementation that the regulation would be better enforceable, complete, clear, etc., if the provisions had been added.

Write without worrying about proper citations, syntax, grammar, and spelling. Plenty of people will review the regulation behind you who will catch such details and point them out to you.

Put yourself in the place of the regulated entity.

As you capture the needed content, try to imagine yourself as the regulated entity who must comply with the regulation. What problems do you encounter? Are there needs that the regulation does not address? Are there provisions in the regulation that now seem unnecessary?

Organizing the regulation.

Many regulations begin with definitions and then list general requirements that apply to all regulants. Some regulations follow the organization of their enabling statue or federal regulations, if applicable. Whatever approach you take, try to make the organization of the regulation as intuitive as possible so that the regulated community can easily find and understand the requirements that apply to them. Typically, regulations are organized into parts (e.g., Part I, II, III), sections (e.g., 12 VAC 24-45), and subsections (e.g., 12 VAC 24-45 (A)).

Requesting feedback

Once you have drafted your regulation and feel reasonably comfortable with it, it is a good idea to get feedback from inside the agency and out. Distribute the regulatory package widely—to any technical advisory committee associated with the regulation, and even across the agency, especially if it is complex and multi-faceted.
You might also arrange a meeting of some members of the regulated community to get their reaction to the draft regulations. Pick your test subjects carefully so that you can ensure the best possible feedback.

Finalizing the regulation

After you have written the regulation and received feedback, go back to the text of the regulation and focus on the details, e.g., proper citations, syntax, grammar, and spelling.
All regulations submitted to the Registrar must conform to The Virginia Register Form, Style, and Procedure Manual, particularly "Part V: Style Guidelines" (pages 29-48). The Manual states on page 6 that, "Regulations will be edited, as necessary, for grammatical correctness and consistency of language to conform with the journalistic style of the Virginia Register." If you wish to minimize the chance that the Registrar will change the text of your regulation, be sure to comply with the style requirements set out in the Manual.
The following are areas to pay special attention to, along with references to the Manual: