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Government Information

General guide for Government Information at Wichita State University

Resources for Finding & Tracking Legislation

Read the news to discover topics of legislation.

Legislation Organized by Policy Area

Federal Legislation

*Click on the hyperlinked terms for a detailed explanation

  • Federal legislation process explained at USA.gov
  • Federal Statutes are laws or "Acts" are enacted by Congress and compiled in the United States Code
  • Regulations are published in the Federal Register and codified in the Code of Federal Regulations
  • Bills are legislative proposals that can be introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. If the bill passes both chambers, it may be signed into law by the President. If the bill does not pass both chambers, it may result in a resolution.

You can find the U.S. Code, Federal Register, the Code of Federal Regulations, and more at FDsys, GovInfo, HeinOnline's Government, Politics, and Law database, and the Law Library of Congress (for older digitized volumes). Bills can be tracked at Congress.gov or GovTrack. See links below.

 

State Legislation

  • State Statutes are laws or "Acts" enacted by the state legislature.
  • Regulations are enacted by an agency to implement or interpret legislation.
  • Bills are legislative proposals that can be introduced in either the House or the Senate. If the bill passes both chambers, it may be signed into law by the Governor. If the bill does not pass both chambers, it may result in a resolution.

Local Legislation

Case Law

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • 1 Federal  Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Federal District (Trial) Court
    • State Supreme Court
    • 11 Circuit Court of Appeals
    • District (Trial) Courts

*Court decisions that are published can be found in case reporters, but not all decisions are published. Appellate court decisions that may be used to set a precedent are published in case reporters specific to the level of court. Cases may then be referred to and cited in federal cases. Trial court decisions are published less frequently.

Legislation and Public Health

1. Read the news or search for legislation by policy area.

  • Find a piece of legislation that is hot in the news or find legislation in a given policy area that is important to you.

2. Learn more about the legislation.

  • Is there a committee or sponsor supporting the legislation?
  • Look at the original text and any revisions or amendments that suggest the intent of the legislation.
  • Can you influence this legislation if you want to? Is it open for public comment or can you contact your legislators?

3. Think about how the legislation may impact public health.

4. Use library databases, government statistics, environmental reports, etc. to gauge the impact on public health.

  • From the library home page, select "Electronic Databases" and choose "health sciences" from the subject drop-down menu. Use databases such as CINAHL Complete and others to search for research relating to your topic. Using advanced search, choose 2-3 key words or a phrase that reflects your topic of legislation and public health. For example "Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations" and "public health" or poultry facilities and "public health."
  • Use the "statistics" tab to find sources of government statistics if you need them. This may include population statistics, demographics of those potentially impacted, etc.
  • Government environmental and health reports may be found through a variety of resources, such as agency-specific websites, subject-specific databases, or other reference material.

5. Think about whether or not this legislation will have an overall positive or negative impact on public health using the information that you've gathered.

Example:

1. I used the Newsbank database to look at the Topeka Capital-Journal for Friday, February 2. I looked at the "State Government" section and found an article about the introduction of a bill that would allow a county-wide vote on large poultry plant operations in Kansas.

2. Initially, I searched the Kansas Legislature website for recent activity as the bill was just introduced, and tried searching for keywords such as "poultry" and "facility" but found nothing. I even searched for the legislators Holland and Karleskint mentioned in the article to see if I could find it with their sponsored legislation, and came up empty. After all of this, I finally tried LegiScan and found it in 2 minutes using the word "poultry" and sorting legislation from newest to oldest. It is listed as Kansas Senate Bill (S.B.) 365

3. In order to know whether or not this bill might impact public health, I first need to know how these large poultry facilities (such as Tyson) impact public health. Tyson buys meat from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (factory farms), so I would probably research those. I would also look at how many people they are looking to employ for their facilities. What kind of infrastructure is needing to support that many workers and their families? Hospitals, schools, restaurants and grocery stores, places to live, etc. What will that kind of population density mean for the small town in terms of risk assessment?

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Congressional Resources

Congressional Documents in the Government Documents Collection at Ablah Library. 

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