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Legislative Histories: 1997+

Researching Public Laws Enacted in 1997+

Identify the Public Law number and the bill number

To determine the number of the Public Law, use one of the following:

  • Shepard's Acts and Cases By Popular Names, Federal & State...
    Reference KF 80 .S5
    provides the citation, including Public Law number.
  • The title and synopsis of laws in U.S. Statutes at Large back to 1789 can be searched by keyword or citation at ProQuest Congressional.
  • U.S.C.S. - United States Code Service
    Reference KF 62 1972 .L38
    provides the full text of laws currently in effect, arranged by subject. The Public Law numbers for a specific section appear in a history note following the text of the law.

Two other listings of federal laws by name are

Congressional Quarterly Almanac (1945-2018)

Congressional Quarterly Almanac provides detailed analyses for most major pieces of legislation considered during a Congressional session.

  • Reference JK 1 .C663 (P.L. 90-1, 1967-2018;
    - missing the 1975 volume with coverage of P.L. 94-1 through 94-205)
  • Orlando Public Library (P.L. 82-1, 1951+)

Earlier volumes may be available in other local libraries, such as the Orlando Public Library (1951+). The earliest volumes for 1945-1950 are available at University of Florida (Gainesville) and University of South Florida (Tampa).

The narrative descriptions often track bills through the process, including discussion of the hurdles and compromises in committees. Sometimes these accounts focus on bills that failed to become law, but which received a lot of attention. For example, the 2002 volume devotes the entire five page Social Policy chapter to two issues: welfare reform and charitable choice. Congress failed to reach agreement on either issue. If these bills were reintroduced in subsequent sessions of Congress, then this analysis from 2002 might be useful for compiling part of the legislative history for those subsequent laws.

NOTE: Not every law is discussed, but search carefully before assuming that a particular law isn't covered; use the table of contents and the index to determine likely sections and then skim through those sections because the indexing is not comprehensive. Also check the volumes for earlier years and the following year.

If there is no coverage of a particular bill in the annual volume, there might be information available in CQ Weekly (step 8).

U. S. Code Congressional & Administrative News (1952+)

U. S. Code Congressional & Administrative News

  • Reference KF 62 .A2 W4 (P.L. 89-350, 1966+)
  • Orlando Public Library (P.L. 82-256, 1952+)

The Congressional bill number (e.g., S. 472 or H.R. 1137) for a specific Public Law should appear near the beginning of the text for that law; record the Congressional bill number in your notes.

The first few volumes in each year contain the actual text of the Public Laws.

The subsequent volumes in each year often contain the full text of one or two of the significant committee reports about each Public Law and sometimes include the text of the Signing Statement from the President. Sometimes only the highlights of the committee reports are printed here, but reading an abridged version of the report may save time.

NOTE: Committee reports are not included in this publication for every Public Law. Even if one or two committee reports are included, there may be other important committee reports for the Public Law.

Retrieve a compiled legislative history list of bills, hearings, reports, debate, etc.

You might find the following useful as part of your research:

CIS Index: Legislative Histories -- U.S. Documents Reference KF 49 .C62 (1969+)

(1984+) provides very helpful summaries of legislative histories for Public Laws passed since 1984. The same information is available online using ProQuest Congressional, but a photocopy of the print version usually provides a descriptive checklist more concisely than printouts of the descriptions behind each of the links in the online version.

(1969-1983) Basic checklists for legislative histories of Public Laws passed between 1969 and 1983 are available online and in the back of the Abstract volumes of the print version.

See also CCH Congressional Index -- Reference J 69 .C6 (1969+).

The UCF Library has the full text available on microfiche for almost all of the publications cited in this index.

Online access to committee reports and Congressional Record debates is common, but retrieving the full text of most hearings will require using the microfiche.

ProQuest Congressional often includes a link within the hearing description to "Retrieve the full text of testimony", but it usually doesn't include the testimony of all witnesses. It also doesn't include the supplementary materials from the hearing, which often can be the most helpful material available in the hearing.

Although ProQuest Congressional does not have the full text of hearings, the full text of some (NOT ALL) hearings published since 1997 might be available through other sources.

Retrieve the Bill Tracking Report

You might find the following useful as part of your research:

ProQuest Congressional provides an online Bill Tracking Report within the legislative history beginning with P.L. 101-1 (1989). Links are provided to the full text for dates of consideration of the bill reported in the Congressional Record.

NOTE: There are a significant number of bills enacted after 1989 for which the LexisNexis Congressional database does not include online Bill Tracking Report information. The online Bill Tracking Report is nice to have, but not essential since the information can also be gathered elsewhere, albeit slightly less conveniently.

Retrieve articles from journals and newspapers

If you haven't already done so, consider reviewing your topic in a specialized encyclopedia, e.g.,

Search for articles discussing the legislation in journals and newspapers. These articles may help in your analysis of the legislative history documents gathered in the previous steps.

CQ Weekly (1953-2010)

CQ Weekly provides a weekly analysis of Congressional activities. Some of this analysis is summarized in Congressional Quarterly Almanac (See step 2).

Congressional Digest (1921+)

National Journal (1969+)

National Journal provides weekly coverage of political and policy developments.

Inside Washington -- ProQuest Congressional (1977+)

Inside Washington (ProQuest Congressional) provides full text articles from several Washington, D.C. news sources:

  • Washington Post (1977+)
  • Roll Call (1989+)
  • The Hill (1995+)

Vital Speeches of the Day (1934+)

Vital Speeches of the Day provides the full text of speeches on a wide range of political topics.

  • Online version (1934+)
  • Microfilm PN 6121 .V52 (1934-1939, 1968-1996, 1997-2001)
  • General Collection PN 6121 .V52 (1939-1968)

Facts on File Yearbook (1941+)

Facts on File Yearbook provides "a detailed, objective and timely weekly distillation of the news and current information as reported in more than 70 major newspapers and newsmagazines from the U.S. and around the world."

  • Reference D 410 .F3 (1941+)

Wilson Indexes (1890+)

The UCF Libraries subscribe to the online versions of several indexes covering articles published in the early part of the twentieth century:

Other articles

Continue your research by looking for articles in other journals and newspapers.

Research Guides

Databases -- Some of the databases and indexes available at UCF can be used to locate professional journals in political science or in the discipline of the legislative topic. Note that you may find articles in more recent journal issues looking back at laws enacted much earlier than the publication date of the journal. Examples of some databases to consider include:

Search for information from organizations concerned with the issue

Compile a list for researching potential organizations:

  • participated in committee hearings
  • mentioned in journal or newspaper articles
  • topical keywords associated with the issue and the organizations

Search Gale Directory Library by the organizations' names or topical keywords to identify contact information, including web addresses.

Some journals or newsletters from professional organizations include legislative update sections to keep their members aware of changes in the law.

Check other resources for information

Two great Web resources for information about Congress are:

Thomas: Legislative Information on the Internet (Library of Congress) provides extensive legislative information, including some information back to 1973.

Legislative Branch Resources on GPO Access includes the text of bills, hearings, etc. back to 1993 and History of Bills back to 1983.