I. How does a bill become a law?
A. Member of the House or Senate drafts a bill, it is introduced in the relevant chamber, and it is assigned a number.
B. Bill goes to Committee (where it can die!)
C. The Committee may request comments from government agencies, hold hearings, or assign a bill to a sub-committee which produces a report. The Committee votes and produces a report and a dissenting report for the full chamber. (If a lot of changes were made to the bill, it is assigned a new number and becomes a "clean bill.")
D. Bill is debated and voted on by full body.
E. If it passes, it goes to the next chamber where it is debated and voted on by the full body.
F. If a different version is passed, the two versions go to a "conference committee" made up of members from each chamber, who come to a compromise, and write a report submitted and voted on by both chambers.
G. If that passes, it goes to the President to sign into law or not.
H. If he signs it into law, it is assigned an official number and becomes a public law.
II. How do I find all of this stuff?
A. Thomas: Legislative Information Online (http://thomas.loc.gov):
1. Find full-text of bills back to 101st Congress (1989/1990) and summary of bills back to 93rd Congress (1973/1974). May search by keyword, subject term, sponsor, and combine terms, etc. Also includes summary, where it is in process, amendments, related bills, timeline of legislation, etc.
2. Must search one legislative session at a time.
3. Find the corresponding public law for the bill you are interested in.
4. Find Committee reports and homepages of Committees.
5. Search Congressional Record back to 1989 for voting history.
NOTE: Thomas includes:
House Floor This Week
House Floor Now (current day)
Quick Search of Text of Bills
Bill Summary & Status, Bill Text
Public Laws by Law Number
Votes (House and Senate Roll Call Votes)
Congressional Record and Congressional Record Index
Committee Reports, Committee Home Pages; House and Senate Committees
(Please see About Thomas and use the FAQ to find basic instructions on finding
bills, coverage information about congress, etc.)
III. GPO Access (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html) includes: the Federal Register, the Congressional Record, Congressional Bills and other Federal Government information.
The Legislative section of GPO Access:
A. Find full text of bills back to 103rd Congress (1993/1994). Search by keyword.
B. Find full text of Hearings and Committee Prints back to 105th Congress (1997/1998)
C. Find history of bills (but not full text) back to 1983.
D. Allows searching across legislative session.
The following is a favorite resource of mine…
IV. LEXIS-NEXIS --Congressional Universe (http://web.lexis-nexis.com/congcomp), a database which provides comprehensive legislative information and analysis. Most coverage begins in the 1989, but some information, such as Legislative Histories, are available from 1970 onwards.
With this database you can…
A. …do keyword searches, or a subject search with the INDEX, and also more advanced searching for full text of bills, voting records, Congressional Record text, hearings, committee reports, voting history, Congressional publications, etc.
B. …search Congressional indexes back to 1789 (not full-text)
C. …search across legislative sessions.
D. …find “hot bills”, links to news items and tracking feature.
NOTE: The GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS LIBRARY (http://www.library.illinois.edu/doc/) has lots of links to resources that will be very helpful in researching policy issues.
Be sure to see this Gov Docs Library page for a better understanding of government information: http://www.library.illinois.edu/doc/researchtools/guides/general/introduction.html