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Legislative Histories: Health Professions Assignment

Health Policy Briefing Assignment (PHC 6146 - Fall 2009)

Resources identified in this guide may assist with specific sections of the policy briefing.

Choose a health care bill that is currently being considered by Congress.

  • Since the assignment requires that the bill has not yet successfully become a law, there won't be ready-made resources pulling the details together for you. To make the research process slightly easier on yourself, choose a bill that has made at least some progress in moving through Congress. If the bill has only been introduced and referred to a committee, but the committee or committees have not taken any action yet, your research process will be significantly more difficult. Try to find a bill for which at least some hearings have been held and which has been reported out of at least one committee.
  • Search LexisNexis Congressional using keywords for your search topic, searching within "Bill Tracking" and restricting by bill status of either "reported in the House" or "reported in the Senate".

1. Background on the bill -- identify issues that are involved and who are the key constituencies for this bill. Explain the possibilities and/or expected impact if this passes or doesn't pass.

  • Search LexisNexis Congressional, selecting the task to "Find Congressional publications related to a bill or law" and searching by the bill number you selected. Look for committee reports and hearings in the results.
  • The full text of a committee report or hearing may not be available yet. If you can't find the full text of a committee publication using LexisNexis Congressional, Thomas, or GPO Access, look through the committee website for information.

2. Brief legislative history of the bill....Is this bill new or is it one that has been around for awhile and keeps getting added to or revised.

  • Determining whether or not legislation has been previously proposed about any matters addressed in the bill will require some digging. Look at everything mentioned in the background analysis of any committee reports. Have hearings been held in previous years? Are there committee reports cited from previous years?

3. Also, discuss whether congressional support for the bill has been steady or whether some congressmen have "flipped" or even "flopped" on this one. Who is the "big" name representative or senator behind this bill?

  • "Flip-flopping" is a term that is primarily used about someone to inflict political damage. Understanding why a particular individual votes particular ways as an issue moves through the legislative process is much more complex than simply did they vote yes on some pieces of the bill and no on other pieces. If you find news articles (step 8) that say a particular individual has flip-flopped, research their statements and votes yourself to comprehend whether or not they have actually changed their position on the issue. If you're not finding news articles saying that certain members of Congress have flip-flopped on the bill, then maybe nobody has, or you're going to have to analyze how each person has voted every time there has been a vote, and look at every time an individual has been quoted as expressing support or opposition.
  • There may not be a "big" name representative or senator behind a bill. Look at the sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill listed in the bill tracking report (step 4) and see who has made remarks in the Congressional Record (also listed in the  bill tracking report). Examine what is being reported in news articles (step 8).

4. What is the current status of the bill? Which committees and/or subcommittees are critical to getting this bill to a vote?

  • Retrieve the bill tracking report (step 4) from LexisNexis Congressional and compare it with the status reported at Thomas.

5. Provide your recommendation...