Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Administrative Law: Historical California Regulations

California Regulatory History Research: It's Hard

California Regulatory History Before 1945

Do not expect to find California regulatory history materials before the first volume of the California Code of Regulations (CCR) was published in 1945. 

The California legislature ordered agencies to publish their regulations because of repeated complaints from attorneys that agency regulations were unknown to the public, agencies did not keep track of their regulations even internally, and individual administrators appeared to make up their own rules as they went along. John G. Clarkson, The History of the California Administrative Procedure Act, 15 Hastings L.J. 237, 240 (1964).

In other words, before 1945, even attorneys and the agencies themselves frequently did not know the current regulations. You should not expect to be able to track them down over 70 years later. 

California Regulatory History After 1945

Even after 1945, California regulatory history research can be difficult.

The California Code of Regulations (CCR) is published in "loose-leaf" format, i.e. as binders with hole punched pages. Each week, libraries and law firms that subscribe to the CCR receive a set of new hole-punched pages called the Register. The library or law firm staff add the new pages from the Register into the CCR binders, then rip out and throw away the outdated pages. This has made it difficult for libraries to preserve copies of the CCR and Register in print and for databases to find copies to scan and post online.

Additionally, the CCR, Register, and Notice Register have had a chaotic publishing history. Each publication has repeatedly changed names and formats, as shown in the California Regulatory Publications by Time Period box below. Controversially, the publications were licensed to a private publisher in 1990, making it more difficult to obtain the data and rights to post historical regulatory materials online.

As a result, California regulatory history materials are scattered across archives, agency offices, library print and microfiche collections, and free and paid websites.

It's worth taking a quick look to see what you can find and, if you need guidance, a reference librarian will be happy to provide advice, as explained on our research help page:

However, ultimately, it may be most effective and efficient to hire a specialist to compile the regulatory history for you. Generally, most companies that provide California legislative histories are also happy to compile histories of California regulations. Try contacting the following companies:

Finding California Regulations at a Specific Point in Time

If you need to know the text of a regulation at any time from the early 2000s forward, it's easy! Both Westlaw and Lexis provide recent historical copies of the California Code of Regulations:

Before 2002, the CCR is only available in microfiche. If you're not sure how to find or use microfiche, please ask for help at the library's front desk. The library has microfiche versions of the CCR for the following years:

A Simple Trick for Finding Regulations Without Microfiche

If you have a citation to a current regulation, one simple trick is to start by scrolling to the end of the regulation for its history notes to check when the regulation was enacted or amended.

For example, imagine that you need to know the text of Cal. Code. Regs. tit. 16, § 2037 in 1994. After scrolling to the end of the regulation, you see the following history notes:

Screencap of CCR reading HISTORY 1. New section filed 4-2-90; operative 5-2-90 (Register 90, No. 14). 2. Amendment filed 9-27-2013; operative 1-1-2014 (Register 2013, No. 39).

These notes tell you that the regulation was enacted by Register 90, No. 14 on April 2, 1990 and amended once, by Register 2013, No. 39 in September 27, 2013. You can find the text of the regulation in 1994 by accessing Register 90, No. 14 (see the Retrieve the Registers box below) or by accessing any copy of the CCR between 1990 and 2013.

Although you need to know the text of the regulation in 1994, you can find the information you need by accessing the CCR from 2002 on Westlaw or 2004 on Lexis. You do not need to retrieve the 1994 CCR in microfiche, unless the partner or judge requires an exact copy of the regulation.

Compiling California Regulatory Histories

In some cases, you may need to compile a more comprehensive history of a regulation. Compiling regulatory history materials for California regulations is difficult because the materials are scattered across the internet, print, and microfiche. However, there are some basic steps you can take to gather the relevant materials.

First, start by retrieving any easily accessible material from Lexis (1990-) and Westlaw (2006-).

Second, identify and retrieve the potentially relevant Registers, which publish the final text of the originally adopted regulation and of each amendment. 

Third, once you have identified the relevant Registers, systematically gather any additional materials including:

  • Rulemaking files (1980-), which compile all of the major documents the agency produced and considered in adopting or amending the regulation.
  • Notice Registers (1974-), which explain why the regulation was made. 
  • Any underground regulation determinations (1984-) or disapproval decisions(1979-), finding that the agency failed to follow the proper rulemaking process.
  • Any materials on the agency website.
  • Any relevant law reviews and newspaper articles.

Retrieving Westlaw Regulatory History Materials (2006- )

Westlaw includes regulatory history materials dating back to 2006. These materials are archived from NETSCAN, a regulatory tracking service designed to help lobbyists track regulations.

The most efficient way to search all of these materials is to access the specific regulation you are interested in and then access the History > Regulatory History subtab. This will provide links to all of the regulatory materials that Westlaw has for that regulation. 

Screencap showing History > Regulatory History subtab on Westlaw

Generally, Westlaw provides two types of materials for regulations, with more materials provided for more recent regulations. Here are direct links to the regulatory tracking materials that Westlaw includes:

If you prefer to browse to these materials rather than using the History > Regulatory History subtab or the links above, you can do so by browsing to Regulations > California, looking in the right sidebar under Tools & Resources, and then selecting California Regulation Tracking and California Proposed & Adopted Regulations- Current. California Proposed & Adopted Regulations- Current includes only materials from the past two years. To access the full California Proposed & Adopted Regulations- All, which includes materials dating back to 2009, access - Current and then look in the right hand sidebar again under Tools & Resources for a link to - All. 

Retrieving Lexis Regulatory History Materials (1990-)

Lexis has regulatory history materials dating back to 1990. Most of these materials are archived from StateNet, a regulatory tracking service designed to help lobbyists track regulations. Some of these materials are taken from the California Regulatory Law Bulletin, an unofficial alternative to the California government's official Notice Register.

The most efficient way to search all of these materials is to browse to Administrative Codes & Regs > California. You can also access the page directly using the link below:

Once you have accessed the relevant page, select the button to Select sources to search and then check CA - California Regulatory Law Bulletin, CA State Regulation Tracking, and CA State Net Regulatory Text.

Search within these materials for references to your regulation. Keep in mind that these materials cite regulations in a variety of formats, including 22 CA ADC 80001, 22 CCR § 80001, 22 CCR Section 80001, or 80001 of Title 22. To capture all of these variations, it is safest to search for the title within the same sentence as the section, in the format 22 /s 80001. You can also try searching for the section number within the same paragraph as related keywords, such as 80001 /p "cash resources" or gifts. 

Screencap showing steps to search regulatory history material on Lexis

As on Westlaw, the more recent the regulation, the more materials you will be able to find. Here are the regulatory tracking materials Lexis includes:

Retrieve the Registers

All regulations include citations to the Register enacting them. To locate the Register citations, access the regulation on the free government website provided by Westlaw, the full Westlaw website, or Lexis. Then scroll to the end to find the following sections:

  1. Authority citations: the statute(s) providing the explicit or implicit legal authority for the agency to adopt the regulation.
  2. Reference citations: the statute(s) that the regulation is implementing.  
  3. History notes: citations to the Register that originally enacted the regulation.

For example, on the screencap shown below of Cal. Code Regs. tit. 16, § 2037, the authority and reference citations tell you that the statute Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 4808 authorizes the agency to make regulations and this specific regulation implements Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 4826. The history notes tell you that the regulation was enacted by Register 90, No. 14 on April 2, 1990 and amended once, by Register 2013, No. 39 in September 27, 2013. 

Screencap of end of regulation reading Note: Authority cited: Section 4808, Business and Professions Code. Reference: Section 4826, Business and Professions Code. HISTORY 1. New section filed 4-2-90; operative 5-2-90 (Register 90, No. 14). 2. Amendment filed 9-27-2013; operative 1-1-2014 (Register 2013, No. 39).

Focus on the Registers that are potentially relevant to you. For example, if you know that the regulation impacting your client was adopted some time in or after 2015, you can start with the most recent Register citation and work backwards to 2015 or start with the first Register citation from 2015 and work forwards, ignoring any amendments before 2015.

Unfortunately, the Register is not available online and only a few libraries own the Registers in print. Instead, most libraries keep the Register in microfiche.  If you're not sure how to find or use microfiche, please ask for help at the library's front desk. The library has microfiche versions of the Register for the following years:

If you are a current Loyola Law School student, faculty member, or staff member, you can request Registers for other years through interlibrary loan:

If you are not a current Loyola Law School student, faculty member, or staff member, you can search for Registers at another library or purchase scans of any Register from the Witkin Law Library or California Secretary of State:

Troubleshooting Incomplete History Notes

Sometimes, history notes are incomplete.

Until the 1980s, when a group of regulations was enacted, the OAL placed a single blanket history note in the first regulation. Subsequent regulations had no history note identifying their enactment, only history notes identifying any subsequent amendments. If a regulation has no history notes or the first history note reads “Amendment filed”, check the beginning of the article, subchapter, chapter, or division for a blanket history note, such as “Chapter 1 published…”

For Example:

The first history note for Cal. Code Regs. tit. 22, § 80042 reads "1. Amendment of Note filed 10-4-2000; operative 11-3-2000 (Register 2000, No. 40)." and the breadcrumb trail at the top of the page shows that it is part of Article 4. Administrative Actions of Chapter 1. General Licensing Requirements of Division 6. Licensing of Community Care Facilities. Check the history notes for the first section in Article 4, Cal. Code Regs. tit. 22, § 80040, and notice that the first history note for this section is also an amendment. Then, check the history notes for the first section in Chapter 1, Cal. Code Regs. tit. 22, § 80000. This history note reads "1. *Repealer of chapter 1 (articles 1-7, sections 80001-80967, not consecutive) and new chapter 1 (articles 1-7, sections 80000-80088, not consecutive) filed 10-7-83; designated effective 1-1-84 (Register 83, No. 42)." Now you know that the entire chapter, including Cal. Code Regs. tit. 22, § 80042, was enacted by Register 83, No. 42 on October 7, 1983.

Additionally, for regulations with long histories, the earlier history notes are sometimes removed with a note to see earlier Registers for the full history.

For Example:

The first history note for Cal. Code Regs. tit. 22, § 80000 says that "For prior history, see Registers 83, No. 20; 83, No. 19; 80, No. 24 and 80, No. 1." To find the regulation's history before 1984, you would need to retrieve those three Registers.

Purchase the Rulemaking File (1981-)

Warning: If you are suing the agency or otherwise challenging the regulation, ask your supervising attorney or client and consider carefully before purchasing the rulemaking file. Contacting the agency to purchase the file may tip them off to the lawsuit before you are ready.

Each time an agency enacts or amends a regulation, it creates a rulemaking file, containing the major materials it produced and considered during the rulemaking process. Cal. Gov't Code § 11347.3 requires all agencies to preserve all rulemaking files created after July 1, 1980 or else transfer them to the state archives. In theory, Cal. Gov't Code § 11347.3 also requires the agency to make the file available to the public for a fee. In practice, obtaining rulemaking files is time consuming and hit-or-miss but, if you are successful, provides a valuable cache of materials that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to track down.

Start by obtaining the Registers and reviewing them to identify the Registers for which you would like to obtain rulemaking files. Upon review, you will likely discover that some Registers only change typos or make changes to parts of the regulation that do not impact you client and therefore are not worth purchasing. Once you have decided which rulemaking files to purchase, contact the agency and the state archives to request the files, providing them with the citations to the regulation and the register.

If the rulemaking file is still with the original agency, expect to make multiple requests and accept that you may not get the file for a long time, if ever. Agencies are often understaffed and do not consider historical research a priority, compared to keeping the agency running day-to-day. After contacting the agency, immediately calendar a date to follow up with them if they do not reply. Be polite but persistent and use both phone and email. If the agency tells you that they cannot find the file, ask the agency to provide a list of the steps they took to check for it. As a professional regulatory history researcher explains: “I have found that when I ask the promulgating agency for a written statement that they looked for the file and could not find it and to specify the actions undertaken to find it—voila! Another effort to locate it undertaken with success! Wow!” See Carolina Rose, Research & Practice Guide: California Regulatory History & Intent p. x (3d ed. 2011), www.lrihistory.com/lridocuments/Regulatory.Intent.Practice.Guide.pdf. Finally, despite the law, in some cases the agency simply did not preserve the file or cannot find it.

Check the Agency Website

Agencies frequently post supplemental materials on their websites, such as the full text of proposed regulations, reports and handouts justifying proposed regulations, and handouts and agendas for hearings about the regulation. Often the Notice Register or regulatory tracking services will provide links to these materials but, unless the Notice Register is very recent, it's common for the links they provide to no longer work. If this is the case, check for an archived version of the website by copying and pasting the link into the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine:

Retrieve the Notice Registers (1974-)

The Registers provide only the final text of a regulation's enactment or amendment. To find information explaining how and why the regulation was enacted or amended, you must locate the Notice Registers that lead up to each Register. By law, the Notice Registers must explain why the agency enacted or amended the regulation and summarize and respond to public comments on the regulation. Although the Notice Registers do not need to include the full text of the proposed regulation, they must explain how to obtain the full text from the agency.

Unfortunately, neither the California Code of Regulations nor the Register provide citations to the relevant Notice Registers and the Notice Registers have never been systematically put online or indexed. However, a variety of strategies can help you locate the relevant Notice Registers.

Sources That Provide the Full Text of Notices from the Notice Register

First, the following sources should include the full text of all relevant notices from the Notice Register:

  • The agency rulemaking file (1981-)
  • Lexis' CA State Net Regulatory Text (1/13/2000–)
  • Westlaw's California Proposed & Adopted Regulations - All (8/7/2009–) 

Usually, the Lexis and Westlaw versions will be sufficient because they provide the full text of the notices, plus the full text of the proposed regulations themselves as obtained from the agency. If you need the notice in its original format, Lexis' and Westlaw's versions may not be sufficient but they will still provide you with the exact dates for the Notice Register, which will make it easy to retrieve the original Notice Register by date.

Sources That Provide Exact Dates for Retrieving Notice Registers

Additionally, the following sources should provide you with the correct dates for the relevant Notice Registers:

  • The lists of actions taken on regulations, from Lexis' CA State Regulation Tracking (1/1/1990-)  and Westlaw's California Regulation Tracking (9/1/2006–).
  • The excerpts and summaries of Notice Registers from Lexis' CA - California Regulatory Law Bulletin (11/24/1995-) 

Finally, sometimes, if you purchase a Register from the California State Archives, it will be accompanied by a cover sheet that identifies the relevant Notice Registers.

Retrieving the Full Text of the Notice Register

If you have the exact dates of the relevant Notice Registers, you can generally obtain the full text by visiting or placing an interlibrary loan request with a library that owns the Notice Registers in print.

If you are unable to identify the exact dates of the relevant Notice Registers, you will need to retrieve the Notice Registers from the year before the regulation was adopted or amended and skim the Table of Contents for each issue, starting with the Notice Register issue published immediately after the Register and working backwards until you find the Notice Register that originally proposed the regulation.

In either case, the following sources will provide you with the full text of the Notice Registers:

Notices Before 1974

Before 1974, agencies were not required to publish notices of proposed regulations in any one location but instead mailed proposed regulations directly to those potentially affected and published the regulations in whichever newspapers and trade journals they believed were relevant. As a result, it is generally not possible to find notices before this date, except possibly through newspaper research (see the Search Law Reviews and Newspapers box below.)

Retrieve Any Underground Regulation Determinations (1981-) and Disapproval Decisions (1979-)

A special agency called the California Office of Administrative Law (OAL) is responsible for supervising other agencies to ensure that they follow the rulemaking process. Sometimes, the Lexis or Westlaw materials or the Notice Registers will indicate that the OAL became involved in the rulemaking.

First, any member of the public may ask the OAL to make an underground regulations determination, finding that a rule an agency is enforcing informally is really an "underground" regulation. The OAL may order the agency to stop enforcing the policy or to pass it as a regulation. The OAL began issuing underground regulation determinations in 1983 and has scanned the full text of all determinations to its website:

Second, the OAL may also become involved in the rulemaking if the agency fails to follow the rulemaking process. In that case, the OAL may issue a "disapproval decision" rejecting the final rule. The OAL was authorized to issue disapproval decisions when it was first created in 1979 and published some early decisions in the Notice Register. However, the OAL was not required to routinely publish disapproval decisions until 1988 and did not begin posting its disapproval decisions online until 2000.

Disapproval decisions can be found through the following sources:

Generally, the Lexis or Westlaw materials or the Notice Registers you have found will alert you to the existence of any underground regulations or disapproval decisions.

However, the number of underground regulations and disapproval decisions is small enough that you can also check directly by browsing the list of decisions online or checking the agency index for decisions in print. Generally, any underground regulation or disapproval decision will have occurred at most two or three years before the regulation's final enactment.

For Example

The history notes for Cal. Code. Regs. tit. 16, § 2037 report that it was enacted by Register 90, No. 14 on April 2, 1990 and amended once, by Register 2013, No. 39 in September 27, 2013. If you do not have a citation to a specific underground regulation or disapproval decision, you can browse the underground regulation determinations and disapproval decisions for the years 2013, 2012, 2011, 1990, 1989, and 1988 to check if any exist.

Search Law Reviews and Newspapers

Sometimes, you will be able to locate law review and newspaper articles written by those who opposed, supported, or were involved in the enactment or amendment of the regulation. Law review and newspaper research is especially important for regulations passed before agencies began publishing proposed regulations in the Notice Register in 1974 because, before that date, agencies published proposed regulations in whichever newspapers and trade journals the agencies felt were relevant.

Start by trying California specific resources:

For more resources on searching newspapers and law reviews, try the following guides:

California Regulatory Publications by Time Period

Official Publication Publication History

California Code of Regulations (CCR)

Loose leaf binders containing all current California regulations

1945-1987

Published as California Administrative Code

(1941 Cal. Stat. 2087, c. 628) 

1987-

Published as California Code of Regulations

(1987 Cal. Stat. 5001, c. 1375)

California Code of Regulations Supplement (Register)

Weekly loose leaf print supplement updating the CCR

1945-1983

Published as California Administrative Register (1941 Cal. Stat. 2087, c. 628)

Published quarterly until 1966 and weekly thereafter

1983-1987

Published as California Administrative Code Supplement (1983 Cal. Stat.  2910, c. 797, sec. 7)

1987-2000

Published as California Regulatory Code Supplement (1987 Cal. Stat. 5001, c. 1375)

2000-

Published as California Code of Regulations Supplement (2000 Cal. Stat. 8085, sec. 13, c. 1060)

California Regulatory Notice Register (Notice Register or Z Register)

Weekly notice of proposed regulations

1947-1974

Proposed regulations published in trade magazines and newspapers and mailed directly to interested parties. (Administrative Procedure Act, 1947 Cal. Stat. 2985, c. 1425, sec. 11)

1974-1983

Proposed regulations published at the end of the Register as the California Administrative Register Notice Supplement (1974 Cal. Stat. 284, c. 142, sec. 2)

1983-1987

Notice Supplement split into its own publication and renamed the California Administrative Notice Register (1983 Cal. Stats. 2910, c. 797, sec. 9)

1987-

Renamed the California Regulatory Notice Register (1987 Cal. Stat. 5001, c. 1375)