eli5 What happens after a bill gets signed into law?

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Of course it probably depends on the law, but how does the mechanism operate such that the executive branch actually *enforces* the law? I assume there are executive departments that have special enforcing abilities and bureaucracy doohickeys, but my basic understanding just amounts to magic.

This question is asked because people seem to only care about how a bill gets passed, which I’m not asking.

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2 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

It depends on the type of law. For example, if it’s a US federal law concerning pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency would be notified when the president signs it, and in all likelihood they would’ve been keeping tabs on the bill as it was going through the legislature and possibly even advising on it. They have staff who has authority to enforce the law, and in cases of noncompliance, they might issue penalties or take the offending parties to court. If instead it was a state criminal statute that was signed into law, then the governor’s office would probably issue a memo to the state police, the county sheriffs, the city police, the District/State Attorneys, anyone who would likely be involved in the enforcement process.

Anonymous 0 Comments

New laws that lead to new government policy or requirements will, almost certainly, take weeks or months to draft, pass, and sign. Normally, there’s also at least some period written into the language of the law for how it starts applying and who will enforce it.

I’m in the US, so I’ll be using that as an example. Let’s say there’s a new Food Uniform Quality Act. Given what it’s about, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), will be the agency that handles enforcement of this law, though some parts might be handled by the Department of Agriculture (such as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS). The FDA will almost certainly have been watching this act’s bill pass through the chambers of Congress, and will thus have had its employees drafting new rules, policies, procedures, requirements, etc. in tandem with the bill. Once it becomes formal, settled law, final adjustments to those policies can be made, and then published for people to read.

After that, it’s a matter of oversight and investigation–something the FDA and other agencies already do on a regular basis. Food safety inspection, for example, is handled in part by APHIS and in part by the FDA, depending on whether it’s inspection of how food is grown/raised/transported (APHIS), or how food is used in factories (FDA) or restaurants (the Food Inspection Safety Service, also part of the DHHS, or more commonly local/state health agencies.) Agencies may request data or samples, physically examine the premises and documents (whether scheduled or surprise inspections), interview customers or employees, and review complaints submitted by the public.