Chapter 4: Executive Branch: Regulations & Executive Orders

  1. What is the executive branch?
  2. Regulations
    1. What is a regulation?
    2. How is a regulation created?
    3. How do regulations interact with other types of law?
    4. How can regulations be useful in research?
    5. Finding Federal regulations
    6. Finding Pennsylvania regulations
    7. Finding Local/Philadelphia regulations
    8. Regulatory Citations
  3. Executive Orders
    1. What is an executive order?
    2. How is an executive order created?
    3. How does an executive order interact with other types of law?
    4. How can an executive order be useful in research?
    5. Finding Federal executive orders
    6. Finding Pennsylvania executive orders
    7. Finding Local/Philadelphia executive orders
    8. Executive Order Citations

This chapter will explain what the executive branch of government does at the federal, state (PA), and local (Philadelphia) levels. It will describe what executive orders and regulations are. It will also include links to executive branch government websites as well as free, online access to executive orders and regulations.

What is the executive branch?

  • The executive branch, headed by the President, exercises executive powers, such as enforcing laws and acting as Commander in Chief of the armed forces. The President has the power to sign (approve) or veto (disapprove) legislation passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate in the legislative branch (Congress), and to appoint judges to the judicial branch, subject to approval by the Senate. The President also has the authority to issue executive orders, which have the force of law and do not require Congressional approval.
  • The Pennsylvania executive branch is headed by the Governor, who has the power to sign or veto acts of the legislature. In Pennsylvania, the legislature, made up of the State House of Representatives and State Senate, is called the General Assembly. The Governor’s role in appointing judges is limited because most judges in Pennsylvania are directly elected, but the Governor does have the power to fill judicial vacancies (for example, when a judge retires or resigns). Like the President, the Governor can issue executive orders that have the force of law in Pennsylvania.
  • The executive branch also includes administrative agencies, government bodies that have the power to carry out laws (statutes) passed by the legislative branch. One way agencies do this is by developing regulations. Administrative agencies exist at both the federal and state levels. Administrative agencies can also exercise law enforcement and quasi-judicial functions, holding hearings similar to those held by courts of the judicial branch. 


What is a regulation?

  • A regulation is an official rule created by an administrative agency. The legislative branch gives rulemaking power to administrative agencies so that agencies can create more specific rules to carry out a law (statute) passed by the legislature. 
  • Regulations are published in two forms:

How is a regulation created?

  • Most regulations are created through a process known as notice and comment. This process is slightly different at the federal and state levels, but both the federal and Pennsylvania governments follow the same general process.
  • First, an agency, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, publishes a notice of proposed rulemaking that contains the text of a proposed regulation and an explanation of why the agency intends to enact it. Notices are typically published in a regulatory register (the Federal Register for federal regulations or the Pennsylvania Bulletin for state regulations).
  • Next, the public is given the opportunity to submit comments on the proposed regulation (for federal regulations, comments can be submitted at Typically, the notice of proposed rulemaking sets a deadline for public comments to be submitted, which may be extended by the agency.
  •  The agency then publishes a notice of final rulemaking, which contains the text of the regulation in its final form, as well as the agency’s responses to the public’s comments. The notice of final rulemaking will typically include the effective date when the regulation goes into effect.
  •  Finally, the text final form regulation will be incorporated into the regulatory code (the Code of Federal Regulations or Pennsylvania Code). However, the comments and the agency’s responses to them will not be included in the regulatory code.

How do regulations interact with other types of law?

  • Statutes:
    • An agency’s power to create rules and regulations is based on statutes passed by the legislative branch. This means that every regulation is connected to at least one statute that authorizes creation of the regulation and defines the scope of the agency’s power to regulate. A notice of proposed or final rulemaking will typically include an “authority” section that lists the statutory authority for the agency to act.
    • In turn, administrative agencies create regulations to give more specific information on how to carry out a law (statute) passed by the legislature.
  • Cases: Courts can strike down regulations that are unconstitutional or exceed the agency’s statutory authority. Pennsylvania has a special appellate court called the Commonwealth Court that hears many challenges to agency regulations.

How can regulations be useful in research?

  •  Regulations are helpful for answering questions about a particular government agency—or about a topic that is regulated by a particular agency. For example, if you have a question about the rules governing state parks in Pennsylvania, you can check for regulations created by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
  • Regulations may provide more detailed rules and guidance than statutes. While statutes are written by legislators, regulations are drafted by subject matter experts in government agencies.
  •  Tip: For more information about the purpose of a regulation that you find in the regulatory code, always go back and check the history of the regulation. A regulatory code section typically includes a heading labeled “Credits,” “Sources,” or “History” that will list the corresponding notices of final rulemaking from the regulatory register. Those notices will contain more information about the reasons why the agency passed the regulation and its responses to public comments.

Finding Federal regulations

  • Federal regulations are created by a variety of federal agencies.
  • The federal regulatory code, the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), can be found for free in multiple places, but the most up-to-date and user-friendly version is the eCFR, which is updated on a daily basis. The official edition of the C.F.R., published annually, can be found at GovInfo.
  •  The Federal Register can also be found in multiple locations online. The most user-friendly version is located at, featuring an advanced search that can be used to find proposed and final rules published by a particular administrative agency. The official edition, published daily, can be browsed by issue at GovInfo.
  •  Regulatory dockets contain the comments to proposed rules and can be found online at If the comment period on a regulation is still open, you can even use to weigh in with your own comment.

Finding Pennsylvania regulations

  • Regulations issued by Pennsylvania agencies can be found at the Pennsylvania Code & Bulletin website.
    • Pennsylvania’s regulatory code, the Pennsylvania Code, can be searched by keyword or browsed by title. Each title covers an agency, or a topic that may be regulated by multiple agencies, and is subdivided into parts and chapters.
    • Pending regulations and historic regulations are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, which can be searched by keyword or browsed by issue. To find an issue of the Bulletin, start by selecting the year (“volume”) and then select a weekly issue (“number”).
  • Additional information about pending and historic Pennsylvania regulations can be found at the Independent Regulatory Review Commission website.

Finding Local/Philadelphia regulations

  • Local regulations issued by agencies of the City of Philadelphia were formerly published in a printed regulatory code called the Philadelphia Consolidated Regulations, which was discontinued in 2014.
  • Regulations issued since January 1, 2014 are available online at
  • For regulations issued prior to January 1, 2014, consult your local law library for a copy of the Philadelphia Consolidated Regulations. 

Regulatory Citations

There are two types of regulatory citations

Citations to the regulatory code, which take the form: 

[Title #] [Name of Code] [Section #], and 

Citations to the regulatory register, which take the form:

[Volume #] [Name of Register] [Page #].

The federal regulatory code, the Code of Federal Regulations, is cited as: 

[Title #] C.F.R. [Section #]

Example: 1 C.F.R. § 5.8 

The federal regulatory register, the Federal Register, is cited as:

[Volume #] Fed. Reg. [Page #] or [Volume #] F.R. [Page #]

Example: 87 Fed. Reg. 15031 or 87 F.R. 15031 

The Pennsylvania regulatory code, the Pennsylvania Code, is cited as:

[Title #] Pa. Code [Section #]

Example: 1 Pa. Code § 3.12

The Pennsylvania regulatory register, the Pennsylvania Bulletin, is cited as:

[Volume #] Pa. Bull. [Page #] or [Volume #] Pa.B. [Page #]

Example: 52 Pa. Bull. 1491 or 52 Pa.B. 1491

Regulatory Code & Citation FormatCode of Federal Regulations[Title #] C.F.R. [Section #]Example: 1 C.F.R. § 5.8 Pennsylvania Code[Title #] Pa. Code [Section #]Example: 1 Pa. Code § 3.12
Regulatory Register & Citation FormatFederal Register[Volume #] Fed. Reg. [Page#] or [Volume #] F.R. [Page #]Example: 87 Fed. Reg. 15031 or 87 F.R. 15031 Pennsylvania Bulletin[Volume #] Pa. Bull. [Page #] or [Volume #] Pa.B. [Page #]Example: 52 Pa. Bull. 1491 or 52 Pa.B. 1491

Executive Orders

What is an executive order?

  • An executive order is a written order issued by a jurisdiction’s chief executive—the President at the federal level, the Governor at the state level, or the Mayor at the local level—which has the force of law and does not require legislative approval.

How is an executive order created?

  •  An executive order is created when the President [Federal] (or the Governor [State] or Mayor [Local]) signs it. No legislative approval is required.

How does an executive order interact with other types of law?

  • Statutes: The legislature cannot directly repeal an executive order, but can override it by passing a statute. Statutes may also provide the underlying legal basis for an executive order—the executive’s authority to issue an executive order is either derived from a statute, or from the constitution itself.
  • Regulations: An executive order may take the form of a general directive, with the specifics left to be implemented by executive branch agencies. An executive order can therefore start a rulemaking process that leads, through the notice and comment process, to the creation of regulations to implement the policy outlined in the executive order. An executive order may also direct agencies to repeal previous regulations.
  • Cases: An executive order can be overturned by a court if the court finds the executive order to be unconstitutional. 

How can an executive order be useful in research?

  • Executive orders are frequently newsworthy, and finding the actual text of the executive order can help you go beyond the headlines to understand the context of what the order says.
  • Executive orders can also provide insight into an administration’s approach to rulemaking. Some executive orders set out a general policy and direct agencies to enact (or repeal) regulations to implement the policy in detail.

Finding Federal executive orders

Finding Pennsylvania executive orders

  • Executive orders are issued at the state level by the Governor of Pennsylvania.
  • Recent executive orders can be found on the governor’s website, along with press releases announcing them.
  • Executive orders are also published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, and can be found by searching by agency (Governor’s Office) or document type (Governor). 

Finding Local/Philadelphia executive orders

Executive Order Citations

  • Citations to federal executive orders contain the number of the executive order, as well as the volume and page where the order can be located in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) or Federal Register.
  • Citations to Pennsylvania executive orders contain the year of the executive order, followed by a dash and the sequential number of the executive order, such as Executive Order 2021-01 for the first executive order issued in 2021, and may also include the volume and page number where the executive order can be located in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Blog at