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PPA601

The Politics of the Policy Process (Prof. Brenda K. Bushouse)

Bills

A bill is a proposed law, or a proposed amendment to a law. Bills are introduced in Congress (the federal legislature) or in the state legislature, and go through a process by which they are studied, changed, and voted on. Not all bills are enacted as law. Some are voted against, and some do not finish the process before the legislative session ends (these bills are said to have "died").

It can be useful to look at a law's history to provide context to its creation and the intention of the legislators. Other documents surrounding the bill process (reports, debates, etc.) can enhance research. The bill itself, in its Preamble, can also provide clues to the policy that prompted it.

  • Bills of the United States Congress
  • Bills of the Massachusetts General Court (state)
  • Masstrac (state) is a subscription-based service that includes the text of Massachusetts bills from 1995 along with committee reports and debates. Users can track the status of bills as they move through the legislature.
  • LegiScan allows researchers to view and track the status of bills of all 50 states and the U.S. Congress.
  • GovTrack is another service that provides the ability to find and track bills in the U.S. Congress. Bills can be searched by number, by sponsor, or by policy area.
  • Using ProQuest Legislative & Executive Publications, you can search bills of the U.S. Congress (whether or not they were enacted) and access other publications related to the bill (e.g. Congressional records, committee reports, etc.).
  • CQ Congress Collection has information on Congress members, how they vote, and how they are rated by interest groups.

The Congressional Record is the official record of the daily activities of Congress.

Federal statutes

United States federal law is codified in the United States Code. The Code is arranged as 54 titles of various subject matters of federal jurisdiction (e.g. Title 12: Banks and banking; Title 17: Copyrights; Title 47: Telecommunications).

The titles are then split up into chapters, which are further divided into sections (e.g. Title 17: Copyrights -- Chapter 1: Subject matter and scope of copyright -- Section 106: Exclusive rights in copyrighted works).

Federal laws might be cited as follows: TITLE U.S.C. § SECTION. For example, 47 U.S.C. § 21 refers to Telecommunications (Title 47), Submarine cables; willful injury to; punishment (section 21).

The U.S. Code can be found at many locations on the Internet:

Westlaw provides an annotated U.S. Code, which includes interpretations and clarifications made by the courts, the history of the statute, and analysis in secondary sources such as encyclopedias and law review articles.

Find federal statutes by popular name

Federal laws are often known by their "popular name" or "short title" rather than by their U.S. Code title and section. Popular name tables exist to allow researchers to match the popular name with the location in the code.

State statutes

Each U.S. state has its own constitution and legal code that covers subject matter under their jurisdiction. The text of these statutes can usually be found at the web page of the state's legislature.

WestLaw search bar

Find Massachusetts statutes by popular name

State laws are often known by their "popular name" or "short title" rather than by their code title and section. Popular name tables exist to allow researchers to match the popular name with the location in the code.

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