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Federal Statutes: A Beginner’s Guide

Slip Laws

Harris & Ewing. How a bill become a law. Now a law, the former bill, reprinted in legal form, is incorporated in the statutes-at-large and filed in the State Department. E.D. Kuppinger, Assistant Chief of the Law Section of the Division of Research and Republication of the State Department is showing placing a law in its final resting place. 1937 or 1938. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Once a bill becomes a law, it is first published in a form that is called a “slip law” by the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) as a part of the Federal Register Publications System.  In this form, the law is published by itself in an unbound pamphlet.  While this seems like it would be a bare-bones presentation, slip laws can provide a surprising amount of information, including: (1) the bill number; (2) public or private law number; (3) the date of enactment; (4) editorial notes in the margin of the text that “giv[e] the citations to laws mentioned in the text…[as well as] United States Code classifications, enabling the reader immediately to determine where the statute will appear in the Code”; and (5) information about the legislative history of the bill, such as citations to the Congressional Record.

Public laws are collected and reprinted by public law number in the United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN).  Each month current laws are published in USCCAN’s supplemental pamphlets and reissued as bound volumes after the end of each session of Congress.  Supplements and bound volumes contain cumulative subject indexes for the session and tables for locating laws by popular name and by affected United States Code section.  USCCAN is available in the Law Library Reading Room. 

In addition, the United States Code Service (USCS), discussed further on the "United States Code" page of this guide, includes monthly USCS Advance supplements reprinting current public laws, which are also available in the Law Library Reading Room.  The United States Code Annotated (USCA), also discussed further on the "United States Code" page of this guide, has quarterly supplements that include current public laws.

Sources for Slip Laws

Free Online Resources

Subscription Databases

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Print Resources

There may be print availability through a library, particularly if the library is a part of the Federal Depository Library Program. To find a federal depository library in your area, visit the Federal Depository Library Directory website.