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Society for Professional Journalists: Legislation

Tracking federal legislation

Congress.gov is a site maintained by the Library of Congress that allows you to track the progress of federal legislation. It also provides links to committee hearings, reports, documents, votes, and other published information related to the passage of legislation. Information on the site is comprehensive back to 1995 and it contains some older content as well.

For additional information about searching for federal legislation and legislative history, visit our guide.

Tracking state legislation

The Hawai`i State Legislature maintains access to bill tracking, committee reports, records of votes, Hawai`i Revised Statutes, and other documents related to the passage of legislation. Coverage is back to 1999. For earlier legislation, consult the Legislative Reference Bureau.

The state legislature does not record or publish transcripts of legislative hearings. The committee chair's clerk may keep detailed notes, which they may or may not be willing to share. Written testimony is available on the Legislature's web site. Capitol TV broadcasts and rebroadcasts selected legislative hearings.

Where to look for federal laws and regulations

The United States Code (USC) is the codification of United States laws -- in other words, the laws are arranged by subject, and amendments are incorporated into the text of existing laws. It is published every six years and is updated with supplements. Cornell University's Legal Information Institute provides an easier to use interface for legal research.

New and proposed federal regulations, along with various notices, presidential executive orders, and proclamations, are published daily in the Federal Register. Regulations are compiled into the Code of Federal Regulations, which is updated annually.

State laws and regulations

A handy gateway to state laws and regulations is Findlaw.

Hawaii Revised Statutes is the publication that contains state laws arranged by subject, in which new laws are integrated with existing law. Session laws are the laws as passed in chronological order.

Regulations are a type of administrative law. In Hawai`i, state regulations are called Administrative Rules. Each agency issues rules covering subjects within its jurisdiction. Other states may call their administrative rules regulations, such as California. States frequently contract with legal publishers like West to publish their laws and regulations. Of course, law offices and law libraries usually subscribe to legal information sources that are far more robust than what is available for free on the internet.

City and County Ordinances

The state or county equivalent of administrative rules are usually called ordinances. For example, Honolulu has its Revised Ordinances. In Las Vegas, the ordinances are compiled in the Municipal Code.