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Legislative Research for GOVT 452

Learn to trace the history of a bill, e.g. for the legislative history in assignment 2 for GOVT 452.

Find the law that created your agency

Your goal is to find out about the law that established your agency. The steps below use the example of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Step 1: Locate the name, year, and U.S. Code citation of the law that created your agency

A. You will find a profile of your agency in the United States Government Manual 

  • Tip: some agencies are inside departments--check Wikipedia or agency website to figure out where to look for your agency.

  • Tip: the agency's profile in the US Government Manual also includes head of agency, agency type, and overview of agency function.

  • Link: https://www.usgovernmentmanual.gov

B. Check the agency's website to confirm that the law & year you found are plausible. Look for a link to "about" or "history".

Example: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5801)


Step 2: Get from your law's Popular Name to its US Code, Stat, & PL citations

Where to look:

  • OPTION A: Use the "Citation Checker" in Proquest Legislative Insight:
    • Enter the popular name of the law (the search box will guess & autofill the law of interest)
    • Open the legislative history for that law to obtain basic citation information. The citations you need appear in the first lines of the legislative history.
    • Follow along with this quick step-by-step guide.
  • OPTION B: Use the Table of Popular Names in the Cornell Legal Information Institute
    • Open the Table of Popular Names
    • Select the first letter of your law's name
    • Scroll down (or use control + F [command +F for macs] and enter the beginning of the law's name)
    • Record the various citations provided under your law's name ***you will need to click on the Public Law citation to view a document showing the Bill #.

Example: The legal citations for the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 are

U.S. Code citation: 42 U.S.C. 5801

Public law number:  P.L. 93-438

Statutes at Large citation: 88 Stat. 1233

Enacted Bill 93 H.R. 11510

Law Enacted date: Oct. 11, 1974

Note: The Legislative History in Proquest Legislative Insight contains far more information than you need for Assignment 2.