Summary of Iowa's Administrative Rules Process

Provided for your information is a general overview of how administrative rules are adopted in Iowa. The process described concerns the standard procedures and timelines used for filing and adopting administrative rules that are put into place by executive state agencies to implement policies and programs. Administrative rules may also be adopted through an “emergency rulemaking process” which is used on a case by case basis. If you have additional questions about the administrative rules process expert resources are provided at the end of this summary. If you would like to see a flowchart of this information click on Rulemaking Flowchart.


Bill Becomes a Law

A bill is a proposal for a law. Ideas for bills may come from many different sources such as a legislative constituent, business, government agency, professional association, or interest group. When a legislator decides to put an idea into policy it is put into the form of a legislative bill. In Iowa, only legislators are able to introduce bills to the Iowa General Assembly.

Bills are sponsored by a Senator or Representative, or by a Senate or House committee. All bills must be approved by both the Senate and the House before being sent to the Governor. The Governor has three options: 1) sign the bill, 2) veto the bill and send it back to the Legislature, or 3) take no action.

In the case of a veto, the Legislature may override the veto with two-thirds of the members of each chamber voting to pass the bill again. If during the legislative session the Governor does not sign or veto a bill, the bill will become law after three days. Bills that are received by the Governor during or after the last three days of the session must either be signed or vetoed within thirty days.


Administrative Rules Implement the Law

After the bill becomes law it becomes part of the Iowa Code. The bill which resulted in the new law may require or authorize a state government agency to adopt administrative rules. Administrative rules are the regulations which the responsible agency puts into action to implement the law. The Administrative rules then become part of the Iowa Administrative Code (IAC). Sometimes the Code of Iowa and the Iowa Administrative Code are both referred to as “the Code.”


Notice of Intent to Adopt Rules (Iowa Code §17A.4)

State agencies often draft administrative rules or propose to modify or change existing administrative rules. Rules may be proposed because of new laws, or because changes are needed to existing programs or simply to keep current with federal regulations. Some programs and responsibilities that are carried out by state agencies require that state laws be at least as strict as federal laws.

Proposed rules must be formatted in a certain way as outlined in Iowa Code, Chapter 17A (Iowa Administrative Procedure Act). The most important thing to know is that old rule language is shown with a strike through and the proposed rule language is shown using underlined text. In the Iowa Administrative Bulletin, new language is indicated by italics, rather than underlining.

Proposed new rules are reviewed and approved by the administrative head of each agency. The rules are then filed in an action which is called the “Notice of Intended Action.” The rules are filed with the Governor’s Administrative Rules Coordinator. The Administrative Rules Coordinator is responsible for coordinating all rules that are proposed by the Governor’s executive branch agencies. This part of the process usually takes about fifty to sixty five days to complete.


Iowa Administrative Bulletin (IAB)

Next the proposed rule is published in the Iowa Administrative Bulletin (IAB) about nineteen days after the Administrative Rules Review Coordinator has received the rules. The IAB publications are available on the Internet (Iowa Administrative Code (IAC)) and in paper form in most public libraries.


Public Comment Period and Public Hearings

Concurrent with the publication of the “Notice of Intent to Adopt Rules” in the IAB the first twenty days of this period is reserved for the public to comment on any aspect of the proposed rules. The state agency may decide to extend public comment period at their discretion. A public hearing by the state agency to take comments is not required unless at least twenty-five persons demand a hearing. Some state agencies will schedule a public hearing for each of their proposed rule changes regardless of the number of comments received.

At a public hearing people are encouraged to submit their comments in writing for the record, and orally if they chose. The hearing is not intended to be a debate session but rather an opportunity for the public to submit comments. Any individual or organization desiring to comment on the proposed rule may submit comments from the time the Notice of Intent is filed through the public comment period. The state agency may revise a rule in response to comments received but is not required to do so.


Agency Adopts Rules

The administrative head of the state agency may adopt the proposed rules not less than thirty-five days from time that the “Notice of Intended Action” was first published in the IAB.

The rules must be “adopted” by the state agency so it can take the next step and file the “Adopted and Filed” version of the rules with the Governor’s Administrative Rules Review Coordinator for a second time. This part of the process takes about nineteen days. Once this is completed the rules are again published in the IAB and become a part of the IAC. The first possible day that the rules can become effective is thirty five days after they published for the second time.


Legislative Review

At some point during this process, the proposed rule is reviewed by the legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee (ARRC). Generally, the proposed rule is evaluated by the ARRC after the “Adopted and Filed” version is published in the IAB.

The ARRC does have the discretion to object to a rule. (If objection does occur this effectively eliminates the presumption that the rule was valid in the event the rule is taken up in a subsequent judicial review.) The ARRC may also delay the effective date of a proposed rule pending additional review by the General Assembly. Although it does not occur frequently the Iowa General Assembly has the ability to rescind any administrative rule by joint action of both the Senate and the House chambers. This oversight power is held by only a few state legislatures.


Additional Information

For additional information on the administrative rules process, please contact:

Joe Royce, Senior Legal Council, Iowa General Assembly, or 515-281-3084

Kristin Hardt, Governor’s Office, State of Iowa, or 515-281-3502