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Find Legislation: United States

What is legislation?

  • Legislation is law enacted by government. It takes the form of a written document.
  • In many countries, including Canada and the United States, there are two types of laws: primary legislation and secondary legislation.

What is primary legislation?

Primary legislation

  • Created by legislative bodies (such as Parliament or Congress)
  • Also called a statue or act
  • Sets out the broad principles and framework of the law
  • Known as a bill prior to approval by a country’s legislative body.

What is secondary legislation?

Secondary legislation

  • Created by bodies, other than the legislative body, that have been delegated that authority by the primary legislation. Those bodies are often, but not always, government agencies or departments.
  • Also known as delegated legislation, subordinate legislation, or regulation.
  • Sets out specific rules under the authority of the primary legislation that authorizes it.

How do I find United States federal legislation?

  • The United States Code contains the federal primary legislation of the United States.  
  • Current and previous editions of the United States Code are available online on the website of the Office of the Law Revision Counsel. You may search by keyword or browse. 
  • The United States Statues at Large publish the text of each law enacted by Congress, arranged chronologically. 
  • United States federal regulations are published in the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Browse regulations by title or search by keyword. 
  • The text of the US Code and the Code of Federal Regulations are also available on the FindLaw website. 
  • The text of all proposed legislation, along with their status, is available online at Search by keyword or bill number. 

How do I find United States state legislation?

  • Hosted, searchable versions of state legislation and links to state resources are available on the FindLaw website. Resources are organized by state.
  • You can also find each state’s official website for legislation by searching Google for <state name> legislation, e.g. New York legislation.

How do I find United States municipal legislation?

  • Legislation enacted by a municipality is called a by-law.
  • You can find each municipality’s official by-laws website by searching Google for <municipality name> by-laws, e.g. Guelph by-laws.

Resources to help with research

Guide: Google Like a ScholarGuide: Find Government PublicationsGuide: Find Grey Literature

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