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Interpretive Rules

Unlike a legislative rule, an interpretative rule is not an attempt to make new law or modify existing law but rather instructs as to what an agency or administrative officer thinks a statute or regulation means. An interpretive rule does not create rights, but merely clarifies or explains an existing statute or regulation-advises the public of the agency’s construction of the rules it administers. Other functions of an interpretive rule include:

  • reminding  the affected parties of existing duties;
  • interpreting a statute to guide the administrative agency in the performance of its duties;
  • stating how the agency construes a statute or a regulation;
  • describing the  factors which an agency will consider in future administrative proceedings without binding an agency to a particular result.

Agency manuals, guidelines, and memoranda may be interpretive rules. A program statement is an internal administrative agency guideline, which is a kin to an interpretive rule.

Procedural rules generally deal with an agency’s methods of operation and are not intended to change the agency’s basic regulatory standards.  Some states allow agencies to make rules for the conduct of their own procedures even without explicit statutory authorization.

In the case of agency policy statements, they are often important guides to the exercise of discretion. However, they have been described as lacking the firmness of a prescribed standard.  An agency’s general statement of policy differs from a substantive rule in that a policy statement is neither a rule nor a precedent, but merely announces to the public the policy, which the agency hopes to implement in future rulemakings or adjudication.

Inside Interpretive Rules