If you think you're going to be using the same searches or legislative histories several times, it may be worth your while to create a profile to save searches or individual documents. For a quick overview of some of the features, see the Creating a Profile tab.
The home page allows options for searching and browsing. It searches for compiled legislative histories- the focus of the database.
Just under the search box is the explanation for What is a Legislative History? And over to the right corner of the Search Box is a list of Popular Names of Laws (laws that are currently loaded will have an *asterisk. Other listed laws are ones that are cited or amended in an existing history.)
There is also a helpful Citation Checker that shows, for example, the public law or Statute at Large citation if you have an enacted bill. See below for more information on using the Citation Checker.
The middle of the home page shows more help - a law in the spotlight and FAQ, as well as the gold box links to the right for "Sessions of Congress" and the "Subject Terms" list. When you look at the pop-up list of Subject Terms, you'll see how many histories are classified under that subject.
When searching, notice that the interface shows you through a type-ahead suggestion feature the keywords, subjects, and laws that are in the database.These are known metadata suggestions from the database that suggest matches from Popular Law names and Subject Terms, and Document Titles. Our Popular Law names are assigned from the Short Titles given by Congress in the Acts themselves, or assigned by the House Office of Law Revision Counsel when they classify the Act and organize it in the U.S. Code. You can browse these Popular Names to see if your topic is listed by clicking on the Popular Names of Laws list pop-up box. We have also included common names that some laws have been acquired over time and by use in our descriptors database, such as "Obamacare". When you select a suggestion, it will search all compiled legislative histories for that term or phrase. You can type your own words or phrases and use connectors and wildcards. You can use quotes to search for an exact match, including "noise words". See here for more information on the Search Syntax page.
The Citation Checker allows you to identify if a legislative history exists for a particular citation that you might have from another source. Each law covered in our database has other legislative citations associated with it (depending on the date of the enacted law) - such as a Public Law (PL) number if it is after 1901 or the 57th Congress, a bill number (we have added our own bill numbers to the 1-14th Congresses before they started using a numbering system themselves), and a Statute at Large (Stat.) citation.
For example, if you know a bill number, you can enter it here (use the format you see below the box) to see if it was enacted, and if we have compiled a legislative history. You'll notice there is some delay as you type because the search engine is matching the characters you type to see if there is a match to suggest. If the bill was enacted, the associated PL number if it exists and Stat. cite will be populated (allowing you to therefore check the citation to see if it passed into law!) and a button directing you to retrieve the legislative history appears. If the history does not exist yet or is not part of your institution's subscription, you'll see the associated citations- but no button. If no information populates the other boxes, that bill did not pass.
If you enter a PL number, using a format with the Congress and the sequential law number, you should automatically see the associated citations. Because bill and Public Law number formats have stayed the same, those are the best pieces of information to use to retrieve the associated legislative history, if you already know that information.
However, if your information is from before 1956, you might be given a Stat. citation that contains a Chapter number. As you type, it is important that you match the search format noted below the box EXACTLY, including the spaces. (Capitalization and punctuation is not important but the spaces betweent he elements are essential) So you can type 3 stat 310 chap 107, or 3 Stat. 310, Chap. 107, or 3 Stat. 310, Chap: 107. In 1957, use of chapter numbers was discontinued, and you'll have just a volume and page number. However, sometimes you'll have a page number for a Stat. volume that identifies where a particular section of an Act begins, we call this an "internal page number". The Stat. cite that you need to enter is to the FIRST page in the Stat. volume where that Act begins, not an internal page. So if you have a known Stat. cite but don't get a match, you may need to use another piece of information to find that law- such as the Popular Law name or the USCS citation.
Use Quick Search if you are looking for publications or documents that are associated with an enacted law. Type the Popular Name and/or select from the type-ahead suggestion(s).
The Guided Search form guides you through the process of creating complex searches to help you find specific publications or documents related to an enacted public law.
Use the Search by Number form to retrieve all the publications related to a specific bill or resolution number by entering that information in the "Bill Number" form.
The results would include that bill itself (all versions), as well as documents "tagged" with that bill number, i.e. publications that have that bill number in the metadata in the document abstract (they are "related to" the bill, and thus would be included in a legislative history that included the bill.) You can also use the Public Law number or Statute at Large citation in the same way.
The difference between using this form on the Search by Number page and entering a citation on the Home screen is that the Home screen is only retrieving Legislative Histories. The Search by Number form retrieves Legislative Histories and other publications in the Legislative Insight database.
You could also use this form to retrieve specific publications where you have a citation or document number from another source, such as a court opinion or a journal article.