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Federal Legislative History Research Guide: Public Law Number

Resources and process for locating the legislative history of a federal law.

Finding the Public Law Number

Legislative history compilations and the documents themselves are often organized by public law number, bill number, or title of the act.   The first public law to pass a Congress is designated number 1. Pub. L. No. 105-1 would be the first bill introduced in the 105th Congress. Each subsequent public law is numbered sequentially throughout the two-year term of a Congress.

Finding the Public Law Number
There are numerous ways to find public law numbers. One easy way is to look at the legislative history notes which follow the text of an Act in an annotated code such as {{cat}, {KF62 .U5},{US Code Annotated (USCA)},{call_num}} (KF62.U5 - 4th Floor Stacks) or {{cat}, {KF62 1972 .L38},{US Code Service (USCS)},{call_num}} (KF62 - 4th Floor Stacks). The notes in these codes should contain the date of passage, the public law number, and the Statutes at Large citation.
The Statutes at Large  (KF50, 4th Floor Stacks) and on HeinOnline's U.S. Statutes at Large.

If you know:

The Subject
If you only know the subject of an act, use the subject indexes in USCA or USCS to find the public law number.

The Act Name
If you know the name of an act, use the popular names tables in USCA or USCS to find the public law number.

Finding the Bill Number
If you need to find the bill number to use one of these compilations, and you know the public law number, you can find the bill number in the Statutes at Large. To obtain the bill numbers for early Congresses (1st to 57th, 1789 - 1903), consult the Legislative Reference Checklist [KF49 L43 1982] available at the Reference Desk and on HeinOnline. Just click on the U.S. Federal Legislative History link on the left, and then the Legislative Reference Checklist in the "Browse by Publication Title " on the top of the page.

Once you know the public law number, the bill number, and/or the title of the act, you can start looking for legislative history documents.  Primarily these are Congressional Reports, Bills, Hearings, Committee Prints, the Congressional Record, and Presidential Documents which can be found using Specialized finding aids and IndexesThe remainder of this Guide will let you know where the document you want can be found.