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Federal Legislative History: Definitions

Basic information related to understanding, locating, and compiling federal legislative histories using resources at the CT State Library and online.

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Legislative Definitions

Legislative History is the term used to describe the documents containing information considered by the legislature during the process of creating laws. They are often used to determine legislative intent and can include the original bill, bill amendments, committee reports, hearing transcripts, and other documents created in connection with a specific bill as it progresses through Congress. 

Some common terms used in the legislative process are listed below. View the Congress.gov glossary for additional definitions.

Bill

A bill is a proposed law introduced in the House of Representatives or the Senate. House bills are designated by the letters "H.R." followed by a number and senate bills are designated as “S.” followed by a number. 

Committee Hearing

A committee hearing is a formal meeting of a committee or subcommittee to hear testimony and gather information for use in committee activities, including the creation of legislation. 

Committee Prints

Committee prints reflect the research activities of Congressional committees. They are a useful source of statistical or historical information, situation reports, and legislative analysis, as well as reports on investigative hearings. They also include other matters such as memorial tributes. The subjects of committee prints vary greatly due to the different concerns and actions of each committee. The publication of committee prints differ with each committee, and formats are inconsistent. 

‚ÄčCommittee Report

A committee report is prepared by a legislative committee and published in the congressional report document series of the U.S Congressional Serial Set. Committee reports may include an explanation of the proposed legislation, committee votes, committee members' opinions, cost estimates, and other information. 

Concurrent Resolution

A concurrent resolution is legislation that relates to the operations of Congress, rather than proposing or amending laws. A concurrent resolution originating in the House of Representatives is designated by the letters “H. Con. Res.” followed by a number and a concurrent resolution introduced in the Senate is designated as “S. Con. Res.” followed by a number. Concurrent resolutions deal with internal matters; they must be passed by both chambers, but they are not signed into law by the President and do not have the force of law. 

Joint Resolution

Joint resolutions are considered to have the same effect as a bill. They propose changes in law or amendments to the Constitution. Unlike simple and concurrent resolutions, joint resolutions require the approval of the President. A joint resolution originating in the House of Representatives is designated by the letters “H.J. Res.” followed by a number and a joint resolution introduced in the Senate is designated as “S.J. Res.” followed by a number. 

Markup

A committee or subcommittee meeting where members reach consensus through debate and voting on amendments. Markups are not always published. 

Private Law

A private law is a private bill passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate in identical form that has been enacted into law. Private laws only affect a private individual or individuals. A private law is designated by the abbreviation “Pvt. L.” followed by the Congress number and the number of the law separated by a hyphen (for example, Pvt. L. 107-1).  

Public Law

A public law is a bill or joint resolution passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate in identical form that has been enacted into law. Public laws affect the entire nation. A public law is designated by the abbreviation “Pub. L.” followed by the Congress number and the number of the law separated by a hyphen (for example, Pub. L. 107-1).

Simple Resolution

A simple resolution is legislation that relates to the operations of a single chamber or expresses the collective opinion of that chamber on public policy issues. A simple resolution originating in the House of Representatives is designated by the letters “H. Res.” followed by a number and a simple resolution introduced in the Senate is designated as “S. Res.” followed by a number. These housekeeping measures are not signed by the President and do not become law.

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