The word promulgate comes up often when talking about administrative rulemaking. “Agencies must promulgate a rule.” But it is not one of those words you typically hear in everyday conversation. What does it really mean when an agency must promulgate something, and why does it matter?
The dictionary defines “to promulgate” as:
1. to make (an idea, belief, etc.) known to many people by open declaration.
2. to make known or public the terms of (a proposed law or rule)
3. to put (a law or rule) into action or force
Promulgate, Merriam-Webster.com (2019).
Under Wisconsin law, an agency must promulgate a rule every time it interprets, enforces, or administers a statute.1 The Wisconsin Administrative Procedure Act lists exactly how an agency must promulgate a rule, including steps like notice and comment which gives the regulated community a chance weigh in on proposed legislation.2
Though for an agency to promulgate a rule looks like meaning (3) of the definition (to put a rule into action), the other two meanings demonstrate why it matters so much that an agency promulgate its rules. Rules have the full force and effect of statutory law. They can come with civil or criminal penalties. So, for the regulated community to know how a rule will impact them and meaningfully engage in the process, it is important an agency (1) make the rule known to many people and (2) make known the terms of a proposed rule before enforcing it.
For more on why promulgating a rule matters, check out our post on Why Rulemaking Matters.
Here at the Great Lakes Legal Foundation, we monitor agency policies and, when appropriate, take the actions necessary to ensure that all rules are properly promulgated.
1 Wis. Stat. § 227.10.
2 Wis. Stat. §§ 227.10-.30.