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Documenting How a Bill Becomes a Law

August 19, 2011
Have you ever wondered about the legislative process that led to the creation of the Department of Justice in 1870? Or how Congress changed the law concerning telemarketers in 1998? A number of digitized legislative histories compiled by the Department of Justice library staff throughout the years on laws of interest to department have now been made available to the public on our website, justice.gov.   These legislative histories are an important roadmap into the development and passage of a law of the United States. A “legislative history” of a law consists of documents created as a result of the legislative process during a law’s consideration, passage by Congress, and signature by the President.   A compiled legislative history assists in organizing the various documents that resulted in the passage of a law. Attorneys and researchers are then able to efficiently search and review the compiled legislative documents to find legal clarifications specific statutory language within the law.  Most legislative histories may include some, or all, of the following: the U.S. Public Law; House and Senate Documents; House, Senate, and Conference Reports; House and Senate Committee Hearings; Congressional Debates (Congressional Record); related Bills; and Presidential Statements. Our digitized legislative histories are unique and may be more comprehensive than other legislative histories on the same laws available through other libraries or research databases. The documents within the legislative histories added to justice.gov were originally researched, comprehensively collected from Congressional publications, and bound into paper volumes by our librarians.  Until now, these multi-volume histories were made available only to department employees through the Justice Department's main library collection. They have been digitized and are now available to the public. We invite you to view them online.

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Updated April 7, 2017