Tip of the Week: How to Locate the Text of a Public Law

Searching, Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories, Statutes at Large, Tip of the Week, Tips and Tricks, U.S. Federal Legislative History
Lauren Mattiuzzo

Have you ever tried to locate the text of a public law or an Act, but didn’t have a U.S. Statutes at Large citation or a public law number handy? This week’s tip will showcase how to utilize three different sources in HeinOnline to locate the text of a public law using its popular name.

Watch the video below or continue reading below for the full-text version of our tip of the week.

U.S. Statutes at Large

The U.S. Statutes at Large is the official source for all laws and resolutions enacted by Congress. Public and private laws passed in the legislature are published and placed in order by the date it was enacted into law. At the end of each congressional session, the laws and resolutions passed during that time are gathered into session law publications, known as the U.S. Statutes at Large. It also contains proclamations by the President, concurrent resolutions, and proposed and ratified constitutional amendments.

HeinOnline has created tools to help researchers easily locate individual public laws. From the database homepage, users have the ability to browse by VolumePopular Name, or Public Law Number. Also included is a link to access the most recent Public Laws, which have not yet been published in the U.S. Statutes at Large.

For this example, let’s locate the text of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. If you do not have the public law number or citation for the Act, enter the U.S. Statutes at Large database and choose the Browse by Popular Name option. Next, select P from the A-Z index provided.

Scroll until you find the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, listed alphabetically, or use the Ctrl + f function to locate the title. Next to the title of the Act is the U.S. Statutes at Large citation, which will bring users to the text of the Act.


U.S. Federal Legislative History

HeinOnline’s U.S. Federal Legislative History Library contains more than 2,500 titles from a number of sources, including the Government Printing Office, Arnold and Porter, Covington and Burling, Kirkland and Ellis, and more. These compilations are composed of the text of the final public law, House and Senate bill variations, congressional hearings, House and Senate reports, and more. Using this database, users can research the legislative intent behind major public laws and follow the progression of a bill from its introduction to its passage.

To locate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act text, begin by navigating to the Popular Name option on the database homepage.

Next, navigate to the letter P using the A-Z index provided.

Locate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, listed alphabetically, or use your Ctrl + f function to search for the Act. Click the title to see all available legislative histories.

Let’s open the first title, Health Care Reform: A Legislative History of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law No. 111-148 (2010). Click the Cumulative Contents link to open up all the documents indexed in the title.

Usually, within a compiled legislative history, the documents, such as the text and any codifications, will be listed first after the table of contents and indexes.

Click Page 119 to view the text of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.


Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories

Users can also locate the text of a public law using the Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories Database, found within the U.S. Federal Legislative History Database. This print resource was converted to an online database to help users easily determine whether a legislative history of a particular public law has been compiled. It also provides related documents, books, or scholarly articles.

From this subcollection, choose Popular Name of Public Law from the drop-down menu and enter Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

View the first result to see a bibliography of the Act. Next, click the Statutes at Large citation to be brought to the text of the public law.

For more information on how to search and navigate through the U.S. Federal Legislative History database, check out our dedicated LibGuide.


U.S. Federal Legislative History LibGuide

Customer Suggestion

Do you have a suggestion or a topic you’d like covered in our Tip of the Week blog series? Email us at marketing@wshein.com. We’d love to hear from you!


Keep checking back with us for new tips and tricks! Don’t forget that HeinOnline search gurus are available at your fingertips: Email uschat us, or call us at (800) 277-6995!

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