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How Laws Are Made: The Legislature

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Visualization-of-How-a-Bill-Becomes-a-Law_Mike-WIRTH.jpg

By Mike Wirth and Dr. Suzanne Cooper Guasco, WikiMedia Commons

This infographic was awarded first prize in the Sunlight Foundation “Design for America Competition” 2010. Accuracy was judged based on the details in How Our Laws Are Made - Learn About the Legislative Process.

Congressional Activity & Legislative Process

The body of law created by acts of a legislature is Statutory law.  At the federal level the statutory laws are those acts passed by the United States Congress, comprised of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

BILLS - introduced in a chamber of Congress and referred to committee

 

COMMITTEES - hold hearings and recommend passage (or not)

Committee membership

Congressional Record Daily Digest - summarizes committee activities

Publications

Hearing Transcripts

Committee Prints

Committee Reports

ACTIONS

Floor - Debates & Voting

The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published daily when Congress is in session. The Congressional Record began publication in 1873.

Presidential - Approve or Veto

LAWS

Once a bill is passed by Congress and signed by the President it becomes a Public Law (Pub. L.). There are also Private Laws (Priv. L.). Public laws relate to the general public, while private laws relate to specific institutions or individuals. Most of the laws passed by Congress are public laws.  The Public Law number is based on the Congress and when it was issued. Therefore, P.L. 105-18 would be the eighteenth law enacted in the 105th Congress. 

Public laws are first published as separate pamphlets called Slip Laws. Annually they are bound into the Statutes at Large in the order in which they were passed (chronological).

Eventually, the laws are organized by subject, indexed, and published in the United States Code (U.S.C.). This process is called codification. The current U.S. Code has 54 separately numbered titles. Each title contains laws specifically relating to that particular subject.

Public Laws (Pub. L.)

Statutes at Large (Stat.)

United States Code (U.S.C.)

Other Sources

Positive law Titles: 1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 23, 28, 31, 32, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 44, 46, 49, 51, and 54

  • When a title of the United State Code was enacted into positive law, the text of the title became legal evidence of the law. Titles that have not been enacted into positive law are only prima facie evidence of the law. In that case, the Statutes at Large still govern.

Compiled Legislative Histories

PRINT

Most of these documents are available in print through the Federal Depository Library Program.


Subscription Databases

The links to the databases below are for the University of Georgia only. But many academic institutions subscribe the services. Check with your campus library or with the law library if your institution has a law school.

View the Webinar

You may need to download a plug-in to view the webinar. If so, you will be prompted.

The Classic Schoolhouse Rock Video

Learn More - about the legislative process and researching statutes

Law School Libraries

Other Resources

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