The rulemaking process in Washington is governed by the Washington Administrative Procedure Act RCW Section 34.05.310 et seq. The rule-making process itself is governed by a set of rules (WAC 1-21). The Office of the Code Reviser has created a flow chart (PDF) of the rule-making process. Note on the left side of the chart, one of the triggers for rulemaking is federal law or regulation, which can require a state agency to create a regulation. If the state fails to implement the regulation, the federal agency will take over (this is common in environmental law).
The basic structure of the rulemaking process in Washington is:
Rulemaking Agenda: Twice a year, the agency must notify the public about its plans for rulemaking in the coming 6 months.
Preproposal Inquiry: The agency must then publish a brief description of the rule and solicit comments.
Proposed Rule: A minimum of 30 days must pass after the publication of the preproposal inquiry before the agency can publish the text of the proposed rule. The agency will also publish the date and time of hearings associated with the rule.
Permanent: After consideration of the submitted comments and hearing testimony, the agency will publish the final rule and it will have legal effect on the effective date.
Emergency: If there are extenuating circumstances, an agency can by-pass the notice and comment process and create an emergency rule. The rule can only remain in effect for 120 days.
Effective Dates: For permanent rules, the effective date is 31 days after filing. An emergency rule is effective immediately for the duration of 120 days.