Is a Mandate a Law?

hammer and gavel
Last modified: December 22, 2022

What is a mandate?

A mandate is an authoritative command that’s applied for a particular circumstance. It can be implemented easily and quickly.

Such a formal order calls for a particular action to be carried out for a set amount of time.

What is a law?

On the other hand, a law is usually a long-term or permanent rule.

These laws are introduced and implemented through legislation. Those who don’t obey such laws will likely face a penalty, charge, or prosecution.

What Are the Similarities Between a Mandate and a Law

  • Once imposed, mandates and laws are both legally enforceable.
  • They’re both controlled by those who implement and oversee them.
  • The two serve a particular objective.
Lady Justice statue
Lady Justice.

What Are the Differences Between a Mandate and a Law in the United States?

The process of implementing laws

Laws can take anywhere from a single week to months to be implemented. At times, the process can even take years.

First, the law must be drafted by the government or state body.

Once formulated, the appropriate legislative body discusses its details before finalizing the draft. 

Congress building
The United States Congress is responsible for proposing and passing federal legislation.

The length of time of discussion depends upon the current political climate. This is why the process can take from weeks to months.

When a consensus is reached between all parties involved in the agreement, voting must occur. If the majority shows the law to be in favor, it’s passed, and enactment proceedings begin. 

If not, further discussions and debates must occur until the majority stands.

The process of implementing mandates

While laws need voting to take place, this isn’t the case for mandates. 

Mandates involve what is known as unilateral decisions

This means they are typically introduced by a government agency or elected official, such as a president or governor.

The main differences between mandates and laws

Laws need to be written before they can legally be authorized. Included in the procedures are the voting process, debates, discussions, and the amendment of the wording of the documents when needed. 

United States Supreme Court
United States Supreme Court.

This process all takes place within legislative bodies.

The length of time a mandate and a law differs, with a law lasting much longer (unless the Supreme Court strikes them down as being repugnant to constitutional law). Part of the reason is due to the agreement process. 

A mandate is called for when there’s a requirement for it, whatever that may be. 

Some emergencies can lead to mandates being introduced, such as a pandemic, hurricane, earthquake, flooding, or any other unexpected disaster. 

Flood
Natural disasters can lead to mandates being implemented.

Mandates can only be made within the parameters set out by the appropriate legislative body and usually when a state of emergency has been declared.

Generally, once the issues are dealt with, the mandate is rescinded.

Mandate vs. Law FAQs

There are some important questions to consider when it comes to highlighting the differences between the two and understanding if a mandate is a law.

Does a governor impose a mandate or law?

The COVID-19 pandemic saw several governors throughout the United States face a backlash from voters and state legislatures. This was due to extensive mandates introduced regarding public health concerns and disease control.

Governor's mansion
Governor’s mansion in Salt Lake City.

These mandates had far-reaching implications, such as a COVID-19 vaccination or mask mandate.

New York Gov Kathy Hochul introduced a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in the state that the New York Supreme Court later struck down.

Lawmakers in many states have sought to impede the ability of governors to make this kind of unilateral decisions.

What Is a Mandate in the United States?

A mandate is a formal order that deals with a particular situation. It can be introduced and implemented speedily, as mask mandates were during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mandates have a limited life span, which is not necessarily the case for statutory or constitutional law.

As noted previously, legislators have used legislation to impede governors’ abilities to implement mandates.

What Is a Law in the United States?

On the other hand, a law is usually a long-term rule. 

US Courtroom
US Courtroom.

These laws are imposed through legislation or statutes. Those who don’t follow such laws will likely face a penalty, charge, or prosecution.

Are state mandates laws?

While it may come as a surprise, there are times when mandates and laws are the same. This depends upon the state.

A state mandate is a state law in some states.

State mandates are laws that are implemented with a particular reason behind them. They’re usually to effect a particular action and are overseen by local government authorities. 

What’s the Verdict?

Mandates and laws aren’t generally the same, except for a few states. 

Laws can take much longer to implement and are done so by a legislative body

Mandates, on the other hand, can be enforced quickly and don’t necessarily require governmental oversight.

2 Responses

  1. I would like to know how the state of Massachusetts has the right to mandate a charge on my National Grid bill a charge for a Distributed Solar Charge when I don’t have Solar. Why am I paying for someone else’s decision to have solar? That’s 100% wrong.
    I look forward to hearing from you.

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