Anatomy of a Rule


Rules adopted by agencies comprise the body of the State's administrative law. What constitutes a rule is set forth in statute and further defined in Attorney General's opinion (No. 93-01). Essentially, unless there is a specific statutory exemption, a rule is any "rule, regulation, order, standard, statement of policy, including amendments thereto or repeals thereof issued or promulgated by any agency and purporting to affect one or more agencies besides the agency issuing such rule or to affect persons not members or employees of such issuing agencies" (Section 14-4-2 NMSA 1978).

The administrative process is governed mainly by the language of an agency's enabling act and the rules adopted by the agency. Agencies function only insofar as the legislature has given them the authority to function. That authority is defined through the agency's enabling act, and is the fundamental source of an agency's power. For example, the authority granted to an agency by the legislature, may be to regulate public utility companies, or set income levels and other criteria by which a person may qualify for government benefits. When an agency engages in rulemaking, the process requires the agency to give the general public notification that a rule is being considered, the general description of the proposed rule, and an invitation to any interested person to submit comments on the proposed rule. The agency reviews the comments and, when appropriate, incorporates suggested changes it received. Then, the agency adopts a final rule.

The State Rules Act, which the Commission of Public Records is charged with administering, establishes the basic requirements for filing and publishing executive-branch rules and for rule style and format. The Commission is also charged with publishing both the New Mexico Register, the official publication of notices of rulemaking and of adopted rules, and the New Mexico Administrative Code (NMAC), a topically organized compilation of current rules. The State Rules Act also directs each agency of the executive branch of state government promulgating any rule to place the rule in the format and style required by rule, New Mexico Administrative Code, Commission of Public Records, 1.24.10 NMAC (2/29/2000).

The objective of 1.24.10 NMAC is to establish standards for uniform rule filings in an easily understood and common format. These standards are designed to ensure that rules are readily identifiable and available for public inspection; that each rule filing can be historically traced from its current status back to the original rule filing; and that rule filings are structured for expeditious compilation into the NMAC. The NMAC is designed to promote access and assist research by adopting a system for uniformly organizing state rules that facilitates fully searchable electronic access. Additionally, it is designed to facilitate electronic publication and availability via the Internet.

Rule Organization

Rule text in the administrative code is found at the part level of the NMAC hierarchy [see Structure of the NMAC for more information]. Each part follows an established organizational structure. First there is the part heading, then there are seven mandatory sections, then more rule text follows, then the history of the part is located at the end. Each section in a part has an accompanying history note. Below are three excerpts from a part that show the established elements every part must have. Click on a letter to see the explanation of that rule element.

The mandatory 7 sectionsJump to letter AJump to Letter BJump to Letter CJump to Letter DJump to Letter EJump to Letter FJump to Letter GJump to Letter HJump to Letter Iskip to the next excerpt sample rule textJump to Letter J skip to the next excerpt History of the PartJump to Letter K
A. Part Heading
  Each part begins with the heading that identifies the title number and name, chapter number and name, and part number and name.
B. Section 1 - Issuing Agency
  Section 1 is the first of the seven mandatory sections that start every part and provides the official name of the agency issuing the rule.
C. History Notes
  History notes appear in brackets at the end of every section and are not considered rule material. A history note tracks the historical development of the specific section it follows.
D. Section 2 - Scope
  Section 2 is the second of the seven mandatory sections that start every part and answers the question: to whom does the rule apply? Some examples are the general public, public utilities, all state agencies, corporations, licensed professionals, etc.
E. Section 3 - Statutory Authority
  Section 3 is the third of the seven mandatory sections that start every part. This is where the enabling legislation that authorizes the issuing agency to write the rule is cited.
F. Section 4 - Duration
  Section 4 is the fourth of the seven mandatory sections that start every part and provides the length of time a rule is intended to be enforceable. Duration may be permanent or limited to a segment of time. Most rules are marked as permanent; however, if an issuing agency desires to limit the duration of a rule, an expiration date may be placed in Section 4. If a duration date is present, the rule will expire on that date without any additional action from the issuing agency.
G. Section 5 - Effective Date
  Section 5 is the fifth of the seven mandatory sections that start every part and provides the date the rule (the entire part) goes into effect. The phrase "unless a later date is cited at the end of a section" is frequently added to this section to remind the reader that individual sections can be amended after the rule goes into effect. The amendment dates are noted in the history notes found at the end of every amended section in the part.
H. Section 6 - Objective
  Section 6 is the sixth of the seven mandatory sections that start every part and provides a statement describing both the purpose of the rule and its intended effect.
I. Section 7 - Definitions
  Section 7 is the last of the seven mandatory sections and provides a list of words used in the part that carry specific meanings or connotations in their usage. Definitions may be included for any part; however if they are in Part 1 (as in this example) these definitions will apply to every other parts in the chapter. If no words are defined, Section 7 must be reserved.
J. Rule Text
  Rule text continues in Section 8 and following sections. For organizational purposes, a section may be further subdivided into subsections, paragraphs and subparagraphs.
K. History of the Part

Located at the end of the part after the rule text, the history of the part records the evolution of the rule material over time. Although it is not located in brackets, the history of the part is not considered rule material. It is divided into two portions: pre-NMAC history and history of repealed material.

Pre-NMAC history records, in chronological sequence, the pre-NMAC development of the rule material included in the part. If a rule is written for the first time after the implementation of the NMAC, there is no pre-NMAC history.

History of Repealed Material records parts and sections repealed since the implementation of the NMAC.

When a rule's history is complex, additional information may be included with the history of the part to better explain the development of the rule material.

If the rule is new and has no history, the history of the part is reserved.

Return to NMAC Explanation page
Return to NMAC homepage