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CM 129E - Public Policy and Leadership in Higher Ed - Gann: Legislation

Inner Workings of Congress

When Congress is in session, members of Congress introduce bills, hold committee meetings and hearings on those bills, and then vote on whether or not to enact the bills.

A bill is a proposed law. When a bill is introduced in Congress, it is assigned a bill number and is either designated as H.R. (House of Representatives) or S. (Senate), depending on the House of Congress in which the bill originates.

All of the documents that are produced relating to that bill between the time it is introduced and the time it becomes a law (if it becomes a law) is called “legislative history.” So, when you track a federal bill (i.e., keep apprised of when it is introduced, when congressional members debate or discuss it, and when/if it will be enacted), you are tracking legislative history in the making.

Federal Legislative History

Check out our Federal Legislative History guide for more detailed information about tracking legislation.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Source: Mike Wirth & Dr. Suzanne Cooper Guasco, How Our Laws Are Made, http://www.mikewirthart.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/howlawsmadeWIRTH2.jpg.

Tracking Federal Legislation

Because of the large number of results you get from keyword searching these sources, it is sometimes easier to find a bill number from another source (e.g., newspaper, article, report) and then search these databases for tracking information.

Tracking State Legislation

Because of the large number of results you get from keyword searching these sources, it is sometimes easier to find a bill number from another source (e.g., newspaper, article, report) and then search these databases for tracking information.

Also, if focusing on one state, check their legislative home page for any available tracking services.