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F&W ECOL 515: Natural Resources Policy (Spring 2021) : Federal laws

Federal laws--spotting and retrieving them

In Regulatory Insight or Legislative Insight...

In regulatory histories in Regulatory Insight and legislative histories in Legislative Insight, there will likely be links to the laws in their "slip law" forms.

When Congress passes a law, it is first published in “slip” form, as a stand-alone publication.

A citation to a slip law looks like this:  P.L.95-632

Component of the citation P.L. 95- 632
Component means Public Law

Congress that passed that law

(table converting Congress numbers to years)

Chronological numbering of law (632nd law passed by the 95th Congress)

Other places to find public laws (slip laws)

If you don't see a link to a public law in Regulatory Insight or Legislative Insight, you can check...

"Public and Private Laws" collection in Govinfo.gov

  • Available FOR FREE to the general public.
  • Official electronic version, from the Government Publishing Office.
  • Covers 104th Congress (1995-96) to present day.
  • "Public and Private Laws" is one collection in the larger Govinfo.gov database.  To search just Public and Private Laws, from the Govinfo.gov main page:
    1. Click the advanced tab.
    2. Click the box next to Public and Private Laws under Refine by Collection  You will have to scroll down the list a ways.
    3. Type a search term in the second box under Search In.
    4. Click Search.
  • You can also search by citation.  To start:
    1. Click the citation tab.
    2. Click Select Collection and select Public and Private Laws.
  • Help for using the Public and Private Laws from Govinfo.gov

Statutes at Large

A few years after each congressional session, the slip laws are accumulated chronologically in the Statutes at LargeStatutes at Large contains the text of all public and private laws, joint and concurrent resolutions passed during each single-year congressional session. 

A citation to a law in the Statutes at Large looks like this: 92 Stat 3752.

Component of the citation 92 Stat 3752
What the component means Volume number Statutes at Large Page number

Where to find statutes

Hein Online U.S. Statutes at Large

  • Subscription database; available on- and off-campus to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff.
  • Can search the full text of laws (use the box at the top of the screen) or browse by volume, public law number, or popular name.
  • Covers 1789-2011 (112th Congress).

 

"Statutes at Large" collection in Govinfo.gov

  • Available FOR FREE to the general public.
  • Official electronic version, from the Government Publishing Office.
  • Covers 1951-2011 (112th Congress).
  • Statutes at Large is one title/collection in the larger Govinfo.gov database.  To search just Statutes at Large, from the Govinfo.gov main page:
    1. Click the advanced tab.
    2. Click the box next to Statutes at Large under Refine by Collection.  You will have to scroll down the list a ways.
    3. Type a search term in the second box under Search In.
    4. Click Search.
  • You can also search by citation.  To start:
    1. Click the citation tab.
    2. Click Select Collection and select Statutes at Large.
  • Help for using the Statutes at Large from Govinfo.gov

 

United States Code

Eventually, a statute gets incorporated into the current body of law, the U.S. Code (USC), which is published every six years.  The process is called codification.

A citation to the United States Code looks like this:  16 USC 1532(16)

Component of the citation 16 USC 1532 (16)
What the component means Title (the USC is divided into topical areas called "titles;" each title is assigned a number).  A title can be published across several volumes. United States Code Section Subsection

Not all versions of the Code list the sections right away; they may include chapter numbers.

Where to find the U.S. Code

United States Code (Hein)

  • Subscription database; available on- and off-campus to UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff.
  • Contains all editions, from 1925-26 to 2018.
  • Can search by citation, browse by title or edition, or search the text by keyword (need to select an edition to search).

"United States Code" collection in Govinfo.gov

  • Available FOR FREE to the general public.
  • Contains editions of the Code from 1994 to present.
  • The US Code is one title/collection in the larger Govinfo.gov database.  To search just the US Code, from the Govinfo.gov main page:
    1. Click the advanced tab.
    2. Click the box next to United States Code under Refine by Collection.  You will have to scroll down the list a ways.
    3. Type a search term in the second box under Search In.
    4. Click Search.
  • You can also search by citation.  To start:
    1. Click the citation tab.
    2. Click Select Collection and select United States Code.
  • Help for using the United States from Govinfo.gov