Monday, June 14, 2010

Legislative Language

If you want to find out more about a bill that is currently in Congress, you can find the full text, the sponsors, and more at the Congressional Record, or browse this GPO list for the 111th Congress.

But, like any other pursuit, until you learn the language of the legislative branch, you may be daunted by the abbreviations and terminology that structure government documents. So, to help you get started, check out this glossary from the Government Printing Office and add a new set of words and terms to your vocabulary! Here are a few sample entries:
H.R. House Bill
S. Senate Bill
H.J.Res. House Joint Resolution
S.J.Res. Senate Joint Resolution
H.Con.Res. House Concurrent Resolution
S.Con.Res. Senate Concurrent Resolution
H.Res. House Simple Resolution
S.Res. Senate Simple Resolution

Bills
H.R. House Bill
S. Senate Bill

A bill is a legislative proposal before Congress. Bills from each house are assigned a number in the order in which they are introduced, starting at the beginning of each Congress (first and second sessions). Public bills pertain to matters that affect the general public or classes of citizens, while private bills pertain to individual matters that affect individuals and organizations, such as claims against the Government.

Joint Resolutions

H.J.Res House Joint Resolution
S.J.Res. Senate Joint Resolution

A joint resolution is a legislative proposal that requires the approval of both houses and the signature of the President, just as a bill does. Resolutions from each house are assigned a number in the order in which they are introduced, starting at the beginning of each Congress (first and second sessions). There is no real difference between a bill and a joint resolution. Joint resolutions generally are used for limited matters, such as a single appropriation for a specific purpose. They are also used to propose amendments to the Constitution. A joint resolution has the force of law, if approved. Joint resolutions become a part of the Constitution when three-quarters of the states have ratified them; they do not require the President's signature.

Between now and July 4th, keep your eyes on my blog for weekly snippets of history and trivia about the workings of the U.S. government.

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