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  1. How does a bill become a law?

    • Member of the House or Senate drafts a bill, it is introduced in the relevant chamber, and it is assigned a number.
    • Bill goes to Committee (where it can die!)
    • The Committee may request comments from government agencies, hold hearings, or assign a bill to a sub-committee which produces a report. The Committee votes and produces a report and a dissenting report for the full chamber. (If a lot of changes were made to the bill, it is assigned a new number and becomes a "clean bill.")
    • Bill is debated and voted on by full body.
    • If it passes, it goes to the next chamber where it is debated and voted on by the full body.
    • If a different version is passed, the two versions go to a "conference committee" made up of members from each chamber, who come to a compromise, and write a report submitted and voted on by both chambers.
    • If that passes, it goes to the President to sign into law or not.
    • If he signs it into law, it is assigned an official number and becomes a public law.
  2. How do I find all of this stuff?

    Thomas: Legislative Information Online (
    • Find full-text of bills back to 101st Congress (1989/1990) and summary of bills back to 93rd Congress (1973/1974). May search by keyword, subject term, sponsor, and combine terms, etc. Also includes summary, where it is in process, amendments, related bills, timeline of legislation, etc.
    • Must search one legislative session at a time.
    • Find the corresponding public law for the bill you are interested in.
    • Find Committee reports and homepages of Committees.
    • Search Congressional Record back to 1989 for voting history.
    Thomas includes:
    • House Floor This Week
    • House Floor Now (current day)
    • Quick Search of Text of Bills
    • Bill Summary & Status, Bill Text
    • Public Laws by Law Number
    • Votes (House and Senate Roll Call Votes)
    • Congressional Record and Congressional Record Index
    • Days-in-Session Calendars
    • Committee Reports, Committee Home Pages; House and Senate Committees
    • and Much More (see About Thomas)
    Use the FAQ for basic instructions on finding Bills, coverage, information about congress and much more.


    The Legislative section of GPO Access (

    • Find full text of bills back to 103rd Congress (1993/1994). Search by keyword.
    • Find full text of Hearings and Committee Prints back to 105th Congress (1997/1998)
    • Find history of bills (but not full text) back to 1983.
    • Allows searching across legislative session.
    GPO Access includes: the Federal Register, the Congressional Record, Congressional Bills and other Federal Government information.


    Or Congressional Universe, a database on UT Library Online:

    • Can do keyword searches and more advanced searching for full text of bills, voting records, Congressional Record text, hearings, committee reports, voting history, Congressional publications, etc.
    • Can search Congressional indexes back to 1789 (not full-text)
    • Can search across legislative sessions.
    • Hot bills, links to news items and tracking feature.


  3. How do I find the full-text of bills from before 1989?

    • It may be hard to do. Use CIS Index to find the bill and then check Congressional Record to see if it was published there. Some, but not all, bills and actions are published there (this publication includes edits made by members after the fact). Congressional Record is available in PCL Reference (J 11 A5 1789-present)

In addition, both the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate sites may have other useful information.



Tracking Texas Legislation


  1. How does a bill become a law?
    • Read the bill on the chamber floor.
    • Refer the bill to Committee. All bills in Committee have a bill analysis, and may have a fiscal note. Impact statements and public hearings are optional for the House and mandatory for the Senate.
    • Committee produces a report and sends it back to the full chamber where it is placed on the "calendar" for debate and voting.
    • If passed, goes to next chamber and then to governor to sign into law or not.
    • If signed into law, becomes part of the Texas Statutes.
  2. How do I find all of this stuff?
      Texas Legislature Online (
    • Search the House Journal and Senate Journal back to 1999. (Journals print the enrolled versions of the bills.)
    • Search bill analyses back to 1995. Can find full-text of fiscal notes, impact statements, analysis and text of bills here.
  3. How do I find older stuff?
    • To find enrolled versions of bills before 1999, check The General and Special Laws of the State of Texas, 1934-present, KFT 1225 T4 Public Affairs Reference
    • To find bill analyses, impact statements, fiscal notes, etc., you have to find the bill file, which is available in the Texas Legislative Library, or, in some case, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Texas Legislative Library
The experts for information on researching Texas legislation.


Texas Legislature Online
Includes Vernon's Texas Statutes - not searchable by subject -- rather, only by "Code". This is easiest to use if you already know the statutory citation. Search by number by selecting View Individual Bill Information . General and Special Laws of Texas, commonly called the "session laws" because they are compilations of bills which passed into law in one particular legislative session. Bills that passed into law 1973 or later will have at least one written bill analysis, and tape recordings of the public hearings held on a bill, and debate in both the House and the Senate on the bill. Bills that became a law before 1973 are available at the Archives Division of the Texas State Library. There are no tape recordings available for these bills, and a written bill analysis was not usually prepared for these bills.


Guide to Legislative Information
This textual guide is intended to "... help legislators, other state officials and employees, and interested citizens in researching the work of past legislatures and in tracking the progress of pending legislative measures during a session."


Bibliography for Tracking Texas Legislation
  • Texas Legislative History: A Manual of Sources, Legislative Reference Library, 1980.
    KFT 1215 A4 1980 PCL Reference Dept
    KFT 1215 A4 1980 Center for American History
    KFT 1215 A4 1980 Public Affairs Library (3 copies)
  • Reference Guide to Texas Law and Legal History, 2nd ed. Austin, Texas, Butterworth Legal Publishers, 1987.
    LAW KFT 1275 R44 1987 Law Library (several copies)
    • Guide to Legislative Information Austin, Tex. : The Council, 1994
      LAW KFT 1621 G85 Law Library



Is there any site/source that somehow catalogs or organizes bills by topic?
You can search by subject in all of the above sources but you can't browse by subject.

How do these things all differ?
They differ just a little in coverage, but not much. GPO Access and Congressional Universe let you search across legislative sessions. Congressional Universe lets you search index to bills back to 1789. GPO Access and Thomas are free, but Thomas offers more advanced searching capabilities.

How do you know if something is a House or Senate bill?
If it is a House bill, it will start with "H." A senate bill will start with "S."

Does it matter how you search for a bill if it was one that was never passed?
No. All the bills that are introduced can be searched. If they die in committee, are voted down, are vetoed etc., you can find that out, too.


Finding relevant books

Use the library catalog, UTNetCAT, to locate books on your topic.

An easy rule of thumb: do a MIXED KEYWORD search for your topic. When reviewing the results, display the FULL RECORD of a relevant work. Use the subject headings assigned to it to find additional materials on that subject:

mk children welfare reform

If you get too many results to look through try a SUBJECT KEYWORD SEARCH. These results should help you identify the proper subject headings you will need to use.