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How a Bill Becomes a Law

This guide explains how a bill is created, approved, or denied in U.S. and Texas legislation. It includes a glossary, live video, links to films on the legislative process, and sites where bills can be researched.



Laws are bills that have been passed by the House and Senate.

A Congress has two sessions, lasting two years.  We are currently in the 115th Congress.

The assigned Congressional number reflects this time period and helps to identify a law. 

Ex:  Pvt.L 104-130                 This is a private law, number 130, originating in the 104th Congress.

P.L. and Pub.L both refer to a public law.

PRIVATE LAW        Private bills affect individuals.

PUBLIC LAW          Public bills or joint resolutions affect the entire nation. 


The definitions and abbreviations listed here were taken from Congressional Information on the Library of Congress Web Site:



This resource is considered the official source for public or private laws passed by Congress.  Laws are printed individually in Acts, but permanently in the Statutes at Large.  

The terms ACT or STATUTE are interchangeable.

Notice P.L. is used in the Statutes At Large  

(P.L. 102-667)



A proposed law that concerns policy, appropriations and law.  Bills add, repeal or amend laws. 

Needs Presidential approval.

(H.R.):  House Bill            ( S.) Senate Bill



Proposals limited to House or Senate policy.  A resolution can occur in one or both the chambers.  There are THREE types:

1.  Simple Resolution: 

Operations of one chamber of Congress, or a collective opinion of that chamber on public policy.

No presidential approval needed when the topic is operations of Congress.


Simple resolution began in the House    


Simple Resolution began in the Senate




2.  Concurrent Resolution: 

Legislation about operations of both chambers of Congress, or a collective opinion of both chambers on public policy.

No Presidential approval is needed when the topic is operations of Congress. 

(H. Con.Res.):   

Concurrent began in House

(S. Con. Res.):  

Concurrent began in Senate


3.  Joint Resolution:  

Legislation with the same effect as a bill. The outcome of the Conference committee where final bill versions are created for the President. Resolutions can amend the Constitution.  

Resolutions Require approval of the President unless they amend the Constitution.

(H. J. Res.):  Joint began in House

(S. J. Res.):  Joint began in Senate



House/ Senate documents and reports that are the result of investigation of bills and other issues by committees appear in the Serial Set.  Use this database to search within the Serial Set:



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