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Social Welfare Policy & Practice in Child Welfare

Brief Guide to Legislative Terminology

P.L. 100-77 (Stewart B. McKinney Homelessness Assistance Act)- P.L. means Public Law.  100 means from the 100th Congressional session. 77 means the 77th law passed during that Congressional session.  Some laws have "popular names" as well as the official title of the law.

S. 178 Justice for Victims of Child Trafficking Act of 2015- S. 178 is a bill number for the bill titled "Justice for Victims of Child Trafficking Act of 2015."  S. means it is a bill in the Senate. Some bills have shortened titles as well as a longer full title.

H.R. 5926 Departments of Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017- H.R. 5926 is a bill number for the bill titled "Departments of Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017." HR means it is a bill in the House of Representatives. ‚Äč  Some bills have shortened titles as well as a longer full title.

Committee prints-

Include a wide variety of publications approved and issued by committees or portions of committees, such as majority or minority staff. The print content varies widely from committee to committee, and over the course of time the function and format have been inconsistent. Examples of committee print content include:

•    Research papers by committee staff, Congressional Research Service experts, or outside consultants
•    Committee rules and calendars
•    Compilations of laws
•    Transcripts of markup sessions or other proceedings
•    Legislative descriptions and analyses

 From Lexis Nexis Congressional Help

Cong Rec- Congressional Record- a document published by the government printing office recording all debates, votes and discussions taking place in the Congress definition from

CRS Reports- The Congressional Research Service (CRS) works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS has been a valued and respected resource on Capitol Hill for nearly a century. CRS is well known for analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan. Its highest priority is to ensure that Congress has 24/7 access to the nation's best thinking. From

Hearing - usually open to the public, [hearings] are held to enable committees to gather opinions and information to help Members make decisions regarding proposed legislation or to help them fulfill their oversight and investigation responsibilities.

Official hearings publications, which are printed by the Government Printing Office, usually include:

  • Written and oral statements of witnesses
  • Transcripts of the verbal question-and-answer session between the committee and witnesses
  • Reports, exhibits, and other materials submitted for the record by witnesses
  • Correspondence and other materials submitted by interested parties

Most hearings are published from six months to a year after the hearing is held, but some hearings are published following a gap of two or more years, and some are never published. From Lexis Nexis Congressional Help

Report -House and Senate reports are the designated class of publications by which congressional committees report and make recommendations to the House or Senate as a whole. These reports concern the findings of committee hearings or the outcome of committee deliberations. They can contain discussions of legislative intent, a short history of a bill, and comparisons of current and proposed law text.  From Lexis Nexis Congressional Help

Legislative history- the chronology of steps a bill took as it moved through the process. It also refers to the collection of documents generated by committees and floor debate on the bill. From

Bills various versions of a bill created during the legislative process include:

  • Reported version after committee orders it reported back,
  • Engrossed version, official text as passed,
  • Act version, when 2nd chamber officially receives it
  • Reported from the 2nd chamber
  • Engrossed from 2nd chamber
  • Enrolled bill- signed by officials of both chambers and goes to president (except concurrent resolutions)
  • Companion bills are introduced in both chambers at the same time w similar language due to cooperation between sponsors

Adapted from Lexis Nexis Congressional Help

United States Statutes at Large- This is the title of a publication that contains session version of the law, also called chapter law. Every law, public and private, ever enacted by the Congress is published in the Statutes at Large in order of the date of its passage. The printed version of United States Statutes at Large is many volumes long.  Adapted from

              McKinney's Session Laws of New York- similar version of the law for New York State

United States Code Annotated or USCS- (United States Code Service)- This is the title of a publication that contains consolidated version of the law. It is a consolidation and codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States. It is prepared and published by a unit of the United States House of Representatives. The printed version of United States Code Annotated is many volumes long. Adapted from

McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York Annotated similar version of the law for New York State


This page of terminology was written and compiled by Adina Mulliken, Fall 2008