The Value of Knowing Your Legislative History

Law research

The Constitution of the United States has been described by many to be the most important legal document ever transcribed in history. It gave birth to the United States and to numerous democracies all over the world.

With its emphasis on checks and balances between the three branches of government, the constitution has enabled the progress of civilized society into the 21st century. Nowhere is this more clear than in the progress of law and interpreting law, which happens in courtrooms around the country.

Laws at the highest level are formed and passed by the legislative branch–the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. As of the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives is composed of 435 Members. They are elected every two years among the 50 states, proportional to the population in those states. The Senate is composed of two members from each state, regardless of population.

While this occurs most notably and in much higher profile at the federal level, such as in the case of federal regulations, it also occurs at the state level in state legislatures. For lawyers and court personnel, the difficulty lies in not just understanding a particular person’s case but on the precedent on which it is possible to draw an argument from.

That precedent occurs through the laws and ruling which have passed before the current case. These can be state rules, state statutes, or simply the legislative history of the state. For a particular issue, the legislative history of California might be different than Texas legislative history.

Federal laws are passed when Congress is in session. Currently there are 300 bills awaiting Senate action and the cumulative percent of bills enacted by Congress for December in the first year of the session is 33%.

Federal regulations are often seen as administrative law and contain the general and permanent rules passed on by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government. Examples of these departments and agencies include the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Postal Service.

An obvious example of federal regulations surround the process of testing a new pharmaceutical drug to be put out on the market. The regulations stipulate the amount of testing a new drug must go through, along with the levels of the tests and the participants of the tests.

Another example also lies within the Food and Drug administration. Certain chemicals, for instance, are not allowed in the packaging of materials, particularly food, conclusions that often took time to figure out, with more being brought to the public’s awareness every day.

With all these different laws and regulations to sift through, lawyers and court personnel must discern quickly and accuracy which avenues of research to pursue in order to understand important points like legislative intent. Often, it is possible to find a company that engages in legislative history services to quickly understand a case.

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