Federal Legislative History 101


It has been more than 200 years since the Constitution was created. That’s 200 years of federal legislative history to keep track of, especially when you are involved in law research or a legislative counsel.

What are the basics of federal legislative history and regulations that you should know? Let’s take a look.

To date, there have been a total of 27 constitutional amendments. A proposed amendment must be passed by both houses of Congress in order to proceed to the next step. Congress is comprised of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate is composed of 100 Members—two from each state, regardless of population or area—elected by the people in accordance with the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. A Senator must be at least 30 years of age, have been a citizen of the United States for nine years, and, when elected, be an inhabitant of the state for which the Senator is chosen. The term of office is six years and one-third of the total membership of the Senate is elected every second year. As constituted in the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives is composed of 435 Members elected every two years from among the 50 states, apportioned to their total populations.

After a proposed amendment makes it through Congress, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states in order to become a bill. After a bill passes, the President has 10 days to sign or veto the enrolled bill. And currently, there are over 300 bills waiting for Senate action. The cumulative percent of bills enacted by Congress for December in the first year of a session is estimated to be 33%.

With federal legislative history, it is important to look into how bills become law and how those laws affect practices today. It is estimated that more than 1.26 million Americans are practicing as licensed lawyers. In the United States a person must attend four years of college or university to earn their bachelor’s degree, then law school for three years, then pass the bar exam. This process differs in different countries as far as education and required training.

The average lawyer in the United States earns between $100,000 and $200,000 a year. However, this amount changes based on the tenure of practice, setting, whether one works in private practice, corporate, or government and the type of law being practiced (family/labor/criminal/corporate/public/property/constitutional/etc).

Because laws change and add to the current federal legislative history, lawyers must stay current on laws. This can involve taking classes to remain in-the-know with local, state and federal laws currently in place. During the course of their job lawyers must be able to interview, write arguments, research, prepare legal documents, and appear in court to work on behalf of their clients. Those that study law and become lawyers can also take on other careers including teaching law in universities and colleges, writing, working in risk management or becoming a lobbyist.

Since 1974, attorneys and court personnel have turned to Legislative Intent Service, Inc. [“LIS”] whenever they need clarity and interpretation on federal legislative history and state statutes or regulations. LIS locates legislative history documentation that enables you to understand existing law and the cause or circumstances leading to its enactment or amendment.

LIS has the largest private collection of legislative history materials in the United States. In addition, our experienced research staff knows how to track down legislative and administrative documents generated from the 1700s to today. Documents collected by LIS have been submitted and relied upon by courts and administrative agencies at all levels.

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