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Law and Legal Studies

Legislative process


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.

Current and past bills can be found at legislatures' respective web pages.

  • Bills of the United States Congress (federal)
  • 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.

I'm Just a Bill

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