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Federal Legislative History


Act - "The formal product of a legislature or other deliberative body exercising its powers." Act, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). An act is the appropriate term for the bill after it has been enacted by legislature into law.

Bill - "A legislative proposal offered for debate before its enactment." Bill, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).

Legislative History - "The proceedings leading to the enactment of a statute, including hearings, committee reports, and floor debates." Legislative History, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). Such history is important to courts when they determine the legislative intent of a particular statute.

Public Law - "A statute affecting the general public. . . . Federal public laws are first published in Statutes at Large and are eventually collected by subject in the U.S. Code." Public Law, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).

Statute - "A law enacted by a legislative body; specif., legislation enacted by any lawmaking body, such as a legislature, administrative board, or municipal court." Statute, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). Although a synonym for act, this term is sometimes used when referring to the codified versions of the law. Technically, acts or statutes that have been arranged by subject are known as compiled statutes. A codified section in the compiled statutes may be made up of one or more acts. Acts themselves are usually split into many codified laws, depending upon the subject of each section of the act.

Hearing - "In legislative practice, any proceeding in which legislators or their designees receive testimony about legislation that might be enacted." Hearing, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).

Committee Report - "A report from a committee to a deliberative assembly on business referred to the committee or on a matter otherwise under its charge." Report, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).

Committee Prints - "[C]ontain a variety of material prepared for committee use, ranging from staff studies to compilations of legislative history documents. Some prints are useful analyses of laws under a committee’s jurisdiction." Morris L. Cohen & Kent C. Olson, Legal Research in a Nutshell § 5-2(e) (14th ed. 2021).

Congressional Research Service (CRS) - "A nonpartisan agency in the Library of Congress that researches and analyzes legislative issues for congressional committees and individual members of Congress." Congressional Research Service, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019). (About CRS)

Congressional Debate or Floor Debate - "The legislative process of debating a proposed bill before an entire chamber rather than before a committee." Debate, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).