Subscription Federal Legislative Databases
Use Databases & Indexes (the terms are often used interchangeably) to identify research articles, technical reports, book chapters, and other materials on your topic. You may need to search more than one database to locate the most appropriate materials for your information need.
Non Government: Legislative Information
Compiled Legislative Histories
United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN)
This publication contains reprints of public laws, legislative history, proclamations, executive messages and orders, administrative regulations, lists of committees, indexes & tables, for each session of Congress. It is located in the 3rd Floor Federal Collection. Call number: KF48 .W45
Legislative histories for popular legisation is sometimes compiled and published. The Tulane Law Library has some of these in our collection. Searching the library catalog by subject or by the popular name of the Law will help you find these type of resources.
Federal Legislative History
What Is A Legislative History?
A legislative history is research into the history of a bill often beginning before the bill is introduced in the legislature and ending when it is either passed into law or is tabled or vetoed. Most bills never get passed. A legislative history includes documents from every step of the law-making process. These documents have a bewildering array of names that are often used interchangeably.
Why Do A Legislative History?
1. Legislative Intent - Ambiguities in statutory language are often resolved in courts. Legislative intent can be used to persuade a judge to interpret a disputed meaning of a statute in a favorable way for clients.
2. Guide for Drafting Related Laws - Lawyers are often involved in the research and drafting of new bills in the interest of clients. Research into federal law is helpful when drafting similar state laws and vice versa.
Federal Government: Legislative Information
Other Legislative History Resources
1. Congressional Hearings and Committee Prints - Hearings are held on some specific, pending legislative proposals (one or more related bills or drafts) or as oversight or investigative hearings on general topics to study federal programs or potential government action. These oversight hearings can develop into legislation. Hearings include transcripts of discussion of proposals for new or suggested changes to pending legislation and other testimony of witnesses before a congressional body. Committee prints usually contain statements or research studies by the committee, staff or experts about legislation.
2. Congressional Committee Reports and Documents - When a bill is approved and amended by its assigned committee, it is printed and reported to the floor of the House or Senate for debate. These reports and documents frequently describe a bill's contents and purposes and give reasons for the committee's recommendations. A committee minority view is sometimes given. Committees issue reports and documents on studies and investigations not related to any particular bill and also publish compiled legislative histories of bills assigned to the committee. Reports are bound as part of a numbered series called the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.
3. Congressional Debates - Congressional debates, or discussions on pending legislation, take place on the floor of the House or Senate and are printed in the Congressional Record.
4. Presidential Approval or Veto Messages - Presidential messages accompany legislation proposed to Congress by the executive and are often issued when the president signs or vetoes a bill. These often explain the reasons for proposing, signing or vetoing legislation.
I'm Just a Bill
Terminology and Definitions
How a Bill Becomes a Law A flow chart of the path a bill takes to become a law.
1. Bill: A proposed act or law drafted by a legislative body. Bills are usually numbered consecutively as they are introduced. Most bills are introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R.) but can also come from the Senate (S.). Different versions of a bill, as it goes from a committee to the House floor then to the Senate floor, are good sources of legislative intent indicating deliberate choices of words.
2. Bill Drafts - Sometimes bills are drafted outside of Congress by special interest groups or trade associations and sponsored later by legislators.
3. Amendments: A bill often amends an existing act. Sometimes a bill is referred to as an amendment and an act is also referred to as an amendment when it amends an earlier act.
4. Act: A bill which has passed or been enacted is called an act and is usually first published in chronological order and is numbered consecutively.
5. Statute: usually an act, after being published chronologically, is organized by subject and then called a statute. The term "code" is also used this way. Sometimes enacted bills in chronological order are also called statutes.
6. Code: usually a subject arrangement of laws which have been previously published chronologically. Subject arrangements of Administrative Regulations are also called codes.
7. Law: the word law is used to refer to cases, statutes, acts, regulations, ordinances, etc.