The Public Policy Model
Regulations are often essential to implementing legislation or other policies, but they are only part of the larger public policy process. Public policy is simply what governments choose to do or not to do. The process of policy-making has four basic steps: formulation, adoption, implementation and evaluation.
Formulation refers to the issues policy makers take into consideration in developing the legislation or policy position. What are the alternative solutions we should consider? How should we implement the policy? This is stage of sorting through policy options.
Adoption refers to the formal policy outputs of this process, for example, legislation, executive orders, amendments, and administrative procedures. It can include the formal decision to do nothing. A policy can be an informal decision even if there is a formal policy output. The policy-making body may pass a formal action but decide not to implement it fully; both are public policies, one formal, one informal. Newly elected officials may choose to leave existing formal policies in place but decide not to enforce or implement the policies.
Implementation is the administration of that policy decision and includes actions such as developing regulations and choosing how best to enforce the law and the regulations. This is the point where policy-making responsibilities shift to government agencies and departments. Depending on the nature of the policy decision, these administrative agencies have more or less discretion as they draft regulations, set standards and pursue enforcement strategies.
Evaluation consists of the analyses of a policy's success or failure. What constitutes appropriate analyses depends on the type of policies being evaluated. For example, it may be important to know about the costs of a policy or the number of people helped by the policy or to have several different types of analyses. Evaluations generally provide information useful for a new formulation stage to start the process all over again.
This public policy model operates at all levels of government and has its characteristic institutions (legislative bodies, public and private interest groups, administrative agencies, executive offices) and actors (elected officials, economists, lawyers, policy experts, agency officials).