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Learn about the Code of Massachusetts Regulations

Find out what regulations do, how they are organized, and how to access the CMR.

The Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) contains regulations promulgated by state agencies pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (M.G.L. c. 30A). Rules and regulations form part of the body of administrative law, along with administrative orders and decisions.

What do regulations do?

Regulations set forth standards for public health and safety, licensing of professionals, consumer and environmental protection, and more. Regulations have the force and effect of law-like statutes. They are created and enforced by executive branch agencies, which are given the rulemaking authority by the legislature. The CMR doesn't contain rules and regulations from all state agencies, because a number of state agencies are exempt from the publication requirement of the Administrative Procedures Act (i.e. Division of Personnel Administration, Civil Service Commission, etc.). 

How is the CMR organized and updated?

The CMR is organized according to the cabinet structure of state government. Each agency is assigned a 3 digit title number by the Secretary of State's office. The first digit indicates the cabinet office involved. For example, environmental agencies begin with the number 3. The second and third digits specify a particular agency. The regulations are further broken down by chapter number.

There have been 3 editions (1976, 1978, 1987) of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations published by the Secretary of State. The current edition was published in the spring of 1987 (reprinted in 1993/94), and contains 25 loose leaf volumes.

The CMR is updated through the biweekly Massachusetts Register. The register is published every 2 weeks by the Secretary of State and contains:

  • Executive orders by the governor
  • Attorney General opinions
  • Permanent and emergency regulations
  • Notice of public hearings
  • The State Register of Historic Places
  • A list of recently enacted legislation

Filing instructions explain which pages to remove from the CMR before the new permanent regulations are added.

How do I get the CMR or Massachusetts Register?

The CMR and Mass. Register can be purchased from the state bookstore or from LexisNexis. All of the Trial Court Law Libraries maintain an up-to-date print version of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations. Selective portions of the CMR are online. Links to the sections available on the web are accessible by citation and by subject. The CMR is also available in most legal databases, such as Lexis and Westlaw.

The Trial Court Law Libraries work very hard to bring you the most current version of all regulations. When the Mass. Register is issued every 2 weeks, the Trial Court Law Libraries go through it and update all the regulations that were changed. They also update emergency regulations, which are not updated in the print set. All standard and emergency regulation changes should be on the site within 1 week of the issuance of the Mass. Register.

Electronic versions of the CMR, even from prestigious databases, are often not as current as the print version, which is updated every 2 weeks. Always check the scope or coverage information when using the CMR from a subscription database. The Massachusetts Register should be checked for emergency regulations. 

How do I get old regulations?

Some of the Trial Court Law Libraries maintain the older editions of the CMR and superseded pages. This allows the libraries to trace the history of a regulation back and to determine the language of a regulation at a particular point in time. Call the closest Trial Court Law Library and the staff will arrange to get the information for you. The Regulations Division of the Secretary of State's office can also provide assistance with questions about the current CMR as well as regulations that are no longer in effect.

What are emergency regulations?

If an agency determines "that the immediate adoption, amendment or repeal of a regulation is necessary for the preservation of the public health, safety or general welfare, and that observance of the requirements of notice and a public hearing would be contrary to public interest, the agency may dispense with such requirements..."  (M.G.L. c.30A sec. 2) Emergency regulations are not filed into the CMR and remain in effect for only 3 months unless they're promulgated in accordance with the rule making procedures in the Administrative Procedures Act. Emergency regulations have the same force and effect as permanent regulations.

To determine if there is an emergency regulation currently in effect, check the cumulative table published in each Massachusetts Register. At the top of the table, it will indicate which Mass. Registers are covered. You may need to go back to an earlier Mass. Register if the table in the most recent one doesn't cover the last 3 months. The table is arranged by the CMR citation and gives the issue number of the Mass. Register and effective date of the regulation.

Learn more about the CMR and Massachusetts Register

Use these resources to learn more about the CMR and Massachusetts Register.

  • The Regulations Manual (see additional resources below) — This 60-page document put out by the Secretary of State outlines the procedures an agency must follow when enacting new regulations. It also discusses the history of the CMR.
  • Guide to Massachusetts Administrative Law (see additional resources below) — This Suffolk University page explains more about the CMR and its use.
  • Handbook of Legal Research in Massachusetts, edited by Mary Ann Neary, et al, Mass. Continuing Legal Education, 2002
  • Administrative Law and Practice, Alexander J. Cella, Massachusetts Practice Series vol. 39), West, 1986.

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