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Social Welfare Policy and Services I (19:910:504)

A research guide for SWPS1 assignments

The Federal Legislative Process

Want to refresh or enhance your knowledge of the federal legislative process in the United States?  See the resources listed on the pages below.

Where to Find Enacted Laws

Westlaw Campus Research
Westlaw Campus Research covers thousands of publications, most of which are available in full text. It is especially useful for legal research, and includes the U.S. Code Annotated, the Federal Register, and the Code of Federal Regulations.

U.S. Code Table of Popular Names
The Table of Popular Names is a list of common names for legislative acts. Where possible, the Legal Information Institute has linked the Popular Names item to its relevant section of the U.S. Code.

United States Federal Law
Website with links to many legal resources.

Where to Find Legislation (Both Bills and Laws)

Numbering and Citations

1. Bills introduced in every Congress are given sequential numbers, e.g., H.R. 1, H.R. 2, S. 1, S. 2, etc.

2. It is also important to know the number of the Congress, e.g., 117th.   See Dates of Sessions of the US Congress. The session of congress is often included in the bill number (e.g. 117 H.R. 110) 

3. Once a bill becomes law, it gets a public law number in its first printing as a slip law.  The public law number has two parts-the first part is the number of the Congress, and the second part indicates it was the nth law passed by that Congress, e.g., Public Law 111-148. Public law is often abbreviated PL in citations. 

4. The public law is also cited to the Statutes at Large, a second printing of the slip laws, arranged chronologically in bound volumes.  A Statutes at Large citation , e.g., 120 Stat. 648, includes the volume and page number on which a law can be found.

5. The public law finally becomes part of the United States Code.  This is arranged by subject, so provisions in the public law can be codified in several different titles (subjects.)

The Timeline of Printing a Federal Law a diagram of the different printings of a federal law


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