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Legislative Process Summary

Only members of the United States Congress, consisting of the House and Senate, can introduce legislation, excluding appropriation or revenue bills which must originate in the House. 

Good to know: 

  • The principal forms of legislation are: bills (H.R.1; S.1), joint resolutions (H.J.Res.1; S.J.Res.1) concurrent resolutions (H.Con.Res.1; S.Con.Res.1), and simple resolutions (H.Res.1; S.Res.1). 
  • The majority of laws passed by the Congress are public (P.L.) applying to the entire nation but a small percentage are private laws (Pvt. L.) affecting individuals, families, or small groups.  Sample citation: Public Law: P.L. 111-3  [111th Congress, Public Law number 3] 
  • Bills that complete the legislative process and become law are assigned a public law or private law number, temporarily released as an unbound “slip law,” and then published in the United States Statutes at Large.  Sample citation:  Statutes at Large: 122 STAT. 701  [Volume 122, Statutes at Large, page 701] 
  • Newly entered statutes are later integrated with other similar laws and permanently codified under one of the 50 topical titles in the United States Code.  Sample citation: United States Code: 42 U.S.C. 1971 et seq. (1988)  [Title number, United States Code, Section or Part number, Year of Compilation]

Tracing Legislation - Essential Sources

Legislative histories, which review the complete legislative cycle, are frequently compiled to analyze the legislative intent of a particular law or interpret a statute.  If the legislation’s number or citation is unknown, try locating it by text searching law reviews, news databases, or legislative resources listed below.  Popular name tables from the U.S. Code or Cornell’s Legal Information Institute are also helpful.

Examine the following souces to iniate a legislative review.  Consult a librarian for further assistance.

Legislation Live

Watch live or recorded proceedings of the United States federal government, as well as other public affairs programming.