promoting optimal nutrition, health and well-being

Government 101

How does an idea become a law?

Understanding the legislative process is a first step in advocating for public policy as it relates to laws and regulations affecting dietetics practice.

There are five stages of public policy-making:

  1. Problem recognition and definition. Concerned citizens or organizations bring an issue to the attention of a legislative representative at the local, state or national level.
  2. Setting the issue on the political agenda. Typically the issue is presented to the staff of the legislative counsel, who draft a bill in the proper language and style. A bill is introduced by sending it to the clerk's desk where it is usually numbered and printed. It must have a sponsor.
  3. Formulation of a policy. Requires a supportive political climate and sound information - registered dietitians play key roles in providing evidence-based and experiential information to policy makers.
  4. Policy implementation. If the bill passes and is signed into law, before it goes into effect, it is reviewed by the appropriate federal or state agency which is responsible for issuing guidelines or regulations that detail how the law will be implemented and what penalties may be imposed if the law is violates. All Alabama state regulations are recorded in the Alabama Administrative Code Federal regulations are published in the Federal Register.

Policy evaluation. Policies usually include provisions for evaluation to determine effectiveness. The state also provides oversight of state regulation and Congress provides oversight of federal regulations.

Federal Public Policy Process

Congress is responsible for preparing and considering federal legislation. There are 16 standing committees in the Senate and 20 standing committees in the House of Representatives.

Download a chart to view how a federal bill becomes a law.

The legislative process comprises a number of steps. To help you understand the information and how it interrelates, a very brief overview of the legislative process within the House of Representatives is presented here.

Rules and Regulations

Once legislation is signed into law, it is sent to the appropriate government agency to write supplemental rules so the law can be implemented. These rules are called "regulations." Rules and regulations provide the means by which the government can administer a law. For this reason, they are sometimes also referred to as administrative law. Once a regulation is written and finalized, it is codified just like statutes and law. At the federal level, regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations. At the state level, they are published in the Administrative Code of the state.

Why are Regulations Important?

The process of rule making occurs at both the federal and state levels of government, and both are important to the practice of dietetics and to the persons who receive nutrition and food services. Often they define requirements for specific services and identify the qualified individual to deliver these services. Regulations can sometimes expound on the law and be a source of additional information and detail.

How do I Follow the Regulations?

ADA follows the federal rule making process daily. The Academy affiliates follow state rule making. Generally, every state government publishes a register (often weekly) indicating what rules are open for public comment and what programs are being pursued. To stay informed about matters of public policy, The Academy members should subscribe to the The Academy's weekly e-newsletter On the Pulse to inform members of developments affecting food, nutrition and health and highlight the opportunities for members to take action in support of programs, policies and public perceptions of work performed by registered dietitians and dietetic technicians, registered. At the state level, members are encouraged to work with their state affiliate's Public Policy Panel and State Policy Representative.

Statutes

A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law and the regulations issued by government agencies.[1] Statutes are sometimes referred to as legislation or "black letter law". As a source of law, statutes are considered primary authority (as opposed to secondary authority).

Before a statute becomes law in some countries, it must be agreed upon by the highest executive in the government, and finally published as part of a code. In many countries, statutes are organized in topical arrangements (or "codified") within publications called codes, such as the United States Code. In many nations statutory law is distinguished from and subordinate to constitutional law.

Additional Government 101 Resources

ADA's Advocacy Home Page, where you can explore the Grassroots Manager and Take Action.


  • Find out who your federal and state legislatures are
  • Learn about The Academy's Policy Action Committee (ADAPAC)
  • Find links to federal government websites
  • Take action on The Academy's key legislative priorities
  • Access The Academy's national public policy staff

Be sure to tune in to Alabama Public Television's Capitol Journal providing in-depth coverage of the Alabama Legislature, with a studio inside the Alabama State House and cameras in both chambers. News director Jon Beans and reporter Lori Cummings co-host the program which is broadcast on Friday evenings at 9:00 p.m. when the legislature is in session.