How a Bill Becomes a Law

Federal Level

Introduction

Law is defined as "...body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community and enforced by a political authority; a legal system" [Yahoo! Education]. On the Federal Level there are two types of Laws: 1) Public and 2) Private.

Public Laws are laws which apply to the country as a whole. They are designated as P.L. Congress- law number. Public Law numbers are assigned chronologically within each Congress. Public Law numbers bear no relationship to bill numbers. For example P.L. 104-10 is the 10th law passed by the 104th Congress.

Private Laws are laws which benefit a single person or organization.  Private laws are designated as Private Law Congress-law number.  Private Law numbers are assigned chronologically within each Congress.

Public and Private Laws are issued first as Slip Laws and later bound in the Statutes at Large. The first official version of a new law is the Slip Law.   Ultimately all public laws make their way in the United States Code, a codification of all laws currently in force.

Once a law is on the books, it is up to Executive Branch of the government and its agencies to enforce them. These agencies establish rules and regulations - the Administrative Law (Regulations) - detailing the enforcement process. These regulations have the force of law and are disclosed first in the Federal Register and later incorporated into the Code of Federal Regulations.

 

Steps to a Bill Becoming Law - Federal

Legislative Action

Documentation

Bill introduced

Bill
Congressional Record

Bill referred to Committee
Bill referred to Subcommittee
[Most bills die in Committee]

Hearings
Committee Print

Committee Reports to House (or Senate)

Committee Report

Floor Action
House Rules Committee
Debate, Amendments, Vote

Congressional Record
Engrossed Bill

Bill sent to Senate (or House)
Process repeated Senate (or House)

Same as above

Bill, with amendments returned to House (or Senate)
Amendments approved,
Amendments unacceptable and bill is reconsidered,
or Conference Committee formed to create a compromise bill

Congressional Record

Conference Committee Report
Enrolled Bill

Bill sent to President to sign

Presidential Statement
Public Law

 

Laws and Legislation Resources

  • History of Bills.  Lists legislative actions on bills that are reported in the Congressional Record, which has been published since 1874.  (Part of the Congressional Record Index)

Call Number:  KF35 .U52, J11 .A54, and J11 .A543
Location:  Moritz Law Library; Thompson Library - Microforms rm. 215; and OSU Book Depository
Library Has:  1985- (check catalog for specific library's holdings)
Electronic:

History of Bills.  (98th Congress (1983-)

  • Slip Laws.  The first official version of a new law. A slip law may be a single sheet of paper or hundreds of pages. Marginal notes may indicate the section(s) of the U.S. Code into which the law will be integrated. A brief legislative history appears at the end of the law.

Call Number:  KF50 .U52
Location:  Moritz Law Library
Library Has:  Slip Laws are retained until the Statutes at Large volume containing the law is received.
Electronic:

LexisNexis Congressional. (100th Congress (1988) - present)  Access restricted to subscribers.  Select Legislative Histories, Bills & Laws ; then Keyword Search; and finally Public Laws. 
•FDSys Federal Digital System.  Public and Private Laws.  (104th Congress (1995)-present)  
•HeinOnline. Session Laws Library.  (1st Congress (1789-) 

  • Statutes at Large.  Chronological compilation of laws. Although citations to the Statutes at Large are by volume and page number (example 88 Stat. 1896),  Public/Private Law numbers can be used to locate specific laws.  Volumes include subject and name indexes.  Note: 1963 through 1974 each volume of the Statutes at Large contained a "Guide to Legislative History of Bills Enacted into Public Law" (usually near the end of the volume).  Beginning with the 94th Congress (1975), a brief legislative history is printed on the last page of each law.

Call Number:  K42 A2, KF50.U5
Location:  Thompson Library, Moritz Law Library
Library Has:  1855- (check catalog for specific library's holdings)
Indexed:  self-indexed, Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Names
Electronic:

LexisNexis Congressional (100th Congress  (1988) - present)  Access restricted to subscribers.  Select Legislative Histories, Bills & Laws; then Get a Document; and finally Statute at Large. 
FDSys Federal Digital System (65th Congress (1951) -)  

  • United States Code.  Codification of "general and permanent laws" currently in force (ie, not private laws or appropriations). With its subject (Title) arrangement, the Code brings together initial laws and subsequent amendments. It is reissued every six years, with annual supplements in the intervening years. Citations to the United States Code are in the form of title number U.S.C. section number, subsection number (example 40 U.S.C. 210.1). Includes subject and popular name indexes.  Note: The United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) is available at the Law Library. This commercially produced version (West Publishing) of the U.S.C. includes notes on the history of laws and related legal cases.

Call Number:   K44 .C4; K44 .C1 1958; K44 .C1 1964; K44 .C1 1970; KF44 .C1 1976; K44 .C1 1982; K44 .C1 1988; KF62 1988 .A2; KF62 1994.A2 and  KF62 2000 .A2
Location:  OSU Book Depository, Moritz Law Library
Library Has:   Check catalog for specific library's holdings
Indexed:  self-indexed, Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Name
Electronic:

LexisNexis Congressional.  Access restricted to subscribers.  Select Legislative Histories, Bills & Laws; then Keyword search; and finally U.S. Code.
•FDSys Federal Digital System. United States. Code. (1994-present)
•HeinOnline.  United States Code. (1925-2006)

Administrative Law and Regulation Resources

  • Presidential Statements. Remarks made by the President when signing an act into law.  These remarks are compiled in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents and later in Public Papers of the Presidents.
  • Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents.  Issued Monday of each week, this publication includes Presidential proclamations, addresses and remarks, appointments, acts approved and vetoed by the President, and messages to Congress. Quarterly and annual cumulative indexes.

Call Number:  J80 .A75 and J80 .A284
Location:  OSU Book Depository; Moritz Law Library
Library Has:  v.5 (1969) - present.  Check catalog for specific library's holdings.
Indexed:  self-indexed
Electronic:

The American Presidency Project (Weekly Carter 1977 through C.W. Bush 2009, and Daily Obama 2009-current) 
Compilation of Presidential Documents (1993-present) 
Weekly Compilation (Serial Solutions) (1992-)

  • Public Papers of the Presidents.  Annual compilations of many of the public messages and statements originally printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents. Chronological arrangement with a subject index.

Call Number: J80 .A28; E806 .R78 and J80 .A283
Location:  Thompson Library; OSU Book Depository; OSU Newark; Moritz Law Library
Library Has:  1929 - present.  Check catalog for specific library's holdings.  1929-33 (Hoover), 1945 (Truman) - present.  For Roosevelt (1934-1945) see The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (E806 .R78).
Indexed:  self-indexed, Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Names
Electronic:

The American Presidency Project (Public Papers Hoover 1929-1933, Truman through G.W. Bush 1945-2007, and Obama 2009 Book 1). 
Compilation of Presidential Documents (1993-present) 
Public Papers (LexisNexis Academic) (1979-2011) [Restricted to OSU Faculty, Staff, and Students only].
Weekly Compilation (Serial Solutions) (1992-)

  • Statements of Administration Policy on Non-Appropriations Bills.  Presidential position papers about proposed legislation, 105th Congress (1997, Clinton)-present.

Electronic:

•The American Presidency Project  (Statements of Administration Policy Clinton 1977 105th Congress  -present). 
Statements of Administrative Policy (111th - 112th Congresses).

  • Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Testimonies.  Provides Office of Management and Budget (OMB) testimonies before Congress, 105th Congress (1977) -.

Electronic:

OMB Testimonies (105th Congress -present).

 

State Level - Ohio

Introduction

On the State level, the general process of how a bill becomes law is very similar to that on the Federal.  Bills are the means by which legislation is introduced in the Ohio General Assembly. They are numbered consecutively within the House (H.B.) and Senate (S.B.) starting with 1 at the beginning of each new General Assembly.

 

Steps to a Bill Becoming Law - Ohio

Legislative Action

Documentation

Bill introduced and referred to Reference Committee

Bill
Ohio House Journal (or Ohio Senate Journal)

Bill referred to Committee

Hearings

Committee reports to House (or Senate)

Ohio House/Senate Journal

Floor Action
Rules Committee
Debates and vote

Engrossed Bill
Ohio House/Senate Journal
Ohio Legislature Live!

Bill sent to Senate (House)
Process repeated in Senate (House)

same as above

Bill with amendments returned to

House (or Senate) Concurrence,
Or Conference Committee

Ohio House/ Senate Journal
Enrolled Bill

Bill sent to Governor to sign

Acts

Bills may have multiple versions:

  • Introduced Bill.  The bill as it was introduced in the House or Senate.
  • Engrossed Bill.   Once a bill has passed the House (or Senate if introduced there) the bill and with all its amendments is printed. This version of the bill is sent to the Senate (or House).
  • Enrolled Bill.  The version of the bill that is agreed upon by both the House and Senate. This version, also called an Act, is presented to the Governor.
  •  

Ohio Resources

Bill Files.  Collection of multiple versions of bills, bill analyses, and other materials gathered or compiled by the Legislative Service Commission.

Available: Ohio Historical Society, 1949-

Electronic:

 

Bills of the Ohio House of Representatives

Available:

  • LSC Bill Room, 1997-present (122nd-128th General Assemblies)
  • Moritz Law Library (KFO6.H68), 1902-presentGeneral Assembly (1997)-present
  • OSU Book Depository (KFO6.H68), 1941-1978
  • Ohio Historical Society, 1838- (See also Bill Files)

Electronic:

 

Bills of the Ohio Senate.

Available:

  • LSC Bill Room, 1997-present (122nd-128th General Assemblies)
  • Moritz Law Library (KFO6.S46), 1902-presentGeneral Assembly (1997)-present
  • OSU Book Depository (KFO6.S46), 1941-1978
  • Ohio Historical Society, 1838- (See also Bill Files)

Electronic:

 

Bulletin, General Assembly of the State of Ohio.  Lists bills introduced, dates of legislative activity, and references to House and Senate Journals. Includes a subject index.

Call Number: J87 O3 BL, KF)18 .B85
Location:  Thompson Library, Moritz Law Library
Library Has:  Check catalog for specific library's holding. 


Committee Hearings.  After being assigned to a committee, most bills (especially House bills), receive at least one public hearing. Usually two or more hearings are held, one for proponents, and one for opponents.  There are no official records of hearings. Summaries of testimonies, beginning with the 116th General Assembly (1985) are included in Bill Files. Summaries also are available via Ohio Capitol Connection beginning with the 118th General Assembly.

Available:  See Bill Files

Electronic:

  • Journals.  General Assembly Web Site.  (2003- House Journal, and the 2005- Senate) 
  • Ohio Capitol Connection - Hannah Online   (Access restricted to OSU Moritz College of Law) 
  •  

    Committee Reports.  Committee reports are the means by which committees report their finding to the House or Senate. References to Committee Reports can be found in the House and Senate Journals. Reports issued since 1989 are included in Bill Files. Reports issued prior to 1989 are unavailable.

    Available:

  • See Journal of the House of Representatives
  • See Journal of the Senate of the State of Ohio
  • Electronic:

  • Journals.  General Assembly Web Site.  (2003- House Journal, and the 2005- Senate)
  • Ohio Capitol Connection - Hannah Online   (Access restricted to OSU Moritz College of Law)
  •  

    Digest of Enactments (1995-present)

    Call Number: JK5566 .A34, KFO15 .L43
    Location:  Thompson Library, Moritz Law Library
    Library Has:  Check catalog for specific library's holding.

    Electronic:

  • Bills Enacted (by Bill Number ) Ohio Capitol Connection - Hannah Online   (Access restricted to OSU Moritz College of Law)
  • Digest of Enactments... Ohio Legislative Service Commission.
  •  

    Journal of the House of Representatives... (Ohio House Journal.)  Produced daily when the General Assembly is in session, the House Journal is a procedural account of House activities. The text of floor amendments are included, but not bills, reports, or debates. The Journal is bound at the end of the Assembly. The Bulletin is reprinted in its index.

    Call Number: J87 .O3 C, KFO18 .H6 (Biennial Edition)
    Location:  Thompson Library,  Moritz Law Library
    Library Has: Check catalog for specific library's holding.

    [Daily Edition available at LSC Bill Room]

    Electronic:  Journals.  General Assembly Web Site.  (2003-current)

     

    Journal of the Senate of the State of Ohio. (Ohio Senate Journal.)  Produced daily when the General Assembly is in session, the Senate Journal is a procedural account of Senate activities. The text of floor amendments are included, but not that of bills, reports, or debates. The Journal is eventually bound with the Bulletin reprinted in its index

    Call Number: J87 .O3 B, KFO18 .S4 (Biennial Edition)
    Location:  Thompson Library, Moritz Law Library
    Library Has:  Check catalog for specific library's holding.

    [Daily Edition available at LSC Bill Room]

    Electronic:  Journals.  General Assembly Web Site.  (2005-current)

     

    LSC Staff reports.  In depth research on selected policy issues.

    Available:  Search OSU Catalog by title of report

    Electronic: 

     

    The Ohio Channel.  Video clips providing unedited coverage of Ohio House of Representative and Senate sessions. Includes debates and votes.

    Available:  Check web site for holdings information.

    Electronic Links:   (Note: RealPlayer required to view video clips.)

     

    Status Report of Legislation.

    Available:  LSC Bill Room

    Electronic Links:  Journals.  General Assembly Web Site.  (2003- House Journal, and the 2005- Senate)

     

    Summary of Enactments (1957-1994).  Annual compilation of condensed versions of Final Analyses of Bills for bills enacted in that year.

    Call Number: JK5566 .A34, KFO15 .L43
    Location:  Thompson Library, Moritz Law Library
    Library Has:  Check catalog for specific library's holding. 

     

     

    State Level - Other States

    Introduction

    The process of how a bill becomes law in the other forty nine states is very like that in Ohio, except for Nebraska.   Nebraska has the only unicameral legislature in the United States.  This system having only one house is similar to what cities and county governments throughout the United States use.  The rest of the states, modeled after Congress, use a bicameral system.   The name that each state gives these two houses varies, as does the name by which the Legislature goes by.  Start by checking out the state legislature's and governor's web sites.  Also check out the newspapers.

    The following web sites may be of help:

    StateInformation.com

    Covers all 50 states with links to state websites sorted by broad topical areas such as Tourism, Natural Resources, Transportation, Youth Services, etc. including links to the Legislature and Governor's Offices.

    USA.gov

    Provides links to each state's official website

     

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    Citations

    Law.  Yahoo! Education, Reference, Dictionary. 

     

    For more detailed information on the legislative process on the Federal Level see

    About the Legislative Process.  LexisNexis Congressional (Licensed for OSU academic use only; any commercial use prohibited) 

    Enactment of a Law.  Thomas.  The Library of Congress. (By Robert B. Dove, Parliamentarian, United States Senate) 

    How A Bill Becomes Law.  OpenCongress.  

    How Laws are Made.  Kids in the House.  Office of the Clerk. 

    How Our Laws are Made.  Thomas.  The Library of Congress.  (Revised and updated by Charles W. Johnson, Parliamentarian, United States House of Representatives) 

     

    For more detailed information on the legislative process in the Ohio General Assembly see

    A Guidebook for Ohio Legislators.  Ohio Legislative Service Commission.  

    How a Bill Becomes a Law.  (The Ohio Senate)

    Ohio Legal Research Guide.  Melanie K. Putnam and Susan M. Schaefgen.   Buffalo, NY:  W.S. Hein, 1997.