And whether you're an honest man, or whether you're a thief, Depends on whose solicitor has given me my brief. -- W.S. Gilbert
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Bills are introduced in the Senate or the House and must be sponsored by a legislator. Each body of Congress has a separate numbering sequence for bills.
Bills must be reintroduced each Congress if they did not pass during the previous Congress. However, bills will carry over from one session to another. Each Congress is 2 years; there are two sessions per Congress, lasting one year each. The First Congress under the Constitution was 1789-90; the 104th Congress is 1995-96.
Bill numbers are found in the legislative history notes at the end of each public law. S. refers to a Senate bill; H.R. refers to a House bill. You may also locate bill numbers through subject indexes in Congressional Index (CCH), the index to the Congressional Record and in the Digest of Public General Bills.
CIS Indexes and Abstracts is a privately published index to hearings, reports and other Congressional documents which pertain to the bills.
Veto messages by the President are found in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and the Papers of the President series.
To determine the status of a bill, check Congressional Index (CCH). The Congressional Bill Status Office in Washington, D.C., is open from 8:00 am - 2:00 pm Pacific Time; phone 202/225-1772.
The Law Library collects copies of bills on microfiche. Bills are also sometimes reprinted in the Congressional Record.
Public laws are acts passed by Congress, and either signed by the President or passed by a vote overriding a veto, that affect the general public. These laws are printed by the Government Printing Office (GPO) first as slip laws, then cumulated in bound volumes of Statutes at Large (Stat.).
GPO chronologically assigns numbers to the laws as they are received. Public laws (P.L.) are cited by the Congress and then the number of the law. Cite to slip laws by the P.L. number and the Stat. by volume and page. The numbers and volume/page are kept the same when cumulated in the bound volumes of Stat. The volume numbers for Stat. do not correspond to the numbers for the Congress.
EXAMPLE: P.L. 101-650, 104 Stat. 5089 (Dec. 1, 1990) refers to the 650th law enacted during the 101st Congress. It is printed in volume 104 of Statutes at Large beginning at page 5089. It was signed by the President, or a veto was overridden, on December 1, 1990.
Printed copies of public laws are found in: 1) slip laws printed by GPO and later cumulated as bound volumes of Stat.; 2) United States Code Congressional and Administrative News; 3) advance sheets for United States Code Service; and, 4) advance sheets to United States Code Annotated.
Public laws are later codified in United States Code (U.S.C.) and reprinted in United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.), and United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.). Tables at the end of each set refer from the P.L. or Stat. cite to the code cite. Code sections are often indicated in the margin of the public law.
LOCATING LAWS BY POPULAR NAME OR SUBJECT
1. If you know only the name of the act, check Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Name, including the paper supplement. Check also the subject indexes and the tables to U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News, U.S.C., U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S. Look at legislative history notes following code sections which will refer you to the public law number and the citation for Stat.
2. Check the subject index in Congressional Index (CCH) which may refer you to a House or Senate bill reference; look up the bill reference in Congressional Index which will also indicate when the bill was enacted and the public law cite. All of these indexes will cite both by subject and by the title of the bill or act.
3. If all you have is the bill number, check Congressional Index (CCH).
4. Check the Digest to General Public Bills or the CIS Legislative History volume.
Private laws are acts passed which affect one person or entity. For
example, an act may be passed settling the monetary claim of a private
citizen against the United States government. A few private laws are
passed every Congress. Private laws are found in the bound volumes of
Statutes at Large.
by the Office of the Administrator for the Courts for the Washington State Judiciary
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