As a bill becomes a law, it passes through many hands. At each step, documents are generated: bills, hearings, committee reports, other bills, House or Senate documents, prints, and so on. These documents comprise the law's legislative history and are used by judges and lawyers to determine legislative intent when interpreting and applying statutes in court cases.
Below is an artificially tidy sketch of the federal process with the documents produced at each step and links to help you locate them. As you look at the chart, notice how many of the different kinds of documents have very similar numbers. Because of this it's vital that you note both the numbers and the abbreviations of the source: 107-111 could be a bill number, hearing number, a public law number, or a House or Senate Document. Without the HR, SR, S Hrg, H Hrg, PL, SDoc, or HDoc, you'll never find what you're looking for.
The idea is written up as a bill or resolution and introduced to a house of Congress (the House of Representatives or the Senate)
Example: HR 107-35
The bill is referred to a committee
The committee or subcommittee holds hearings, accepts documents, reports favorably or unfavorably, advises changes.
Example: S. Hrg. 107-111
Prints and Documents
|Congress debates the bill and votes||Debates are transcribed in the Congressional Record.
Example: 154 Cong.Rec. S 5412
|Bill becomes law||New laws are first published in paper as slip laws and given public law numbers, then published in Statutes at Large
Example: PL 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425
Finally, the law is put into the U.S. Code.
|OR Presidential Veto||In the event that the President vetoes a law, documentation can be found in The Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents.