SOW 6235/4233: Social Welfare Policy/Program

Getting Started

This outline will guide you to sources for locating legislation

Accessing legislative materials is no longer as difficult as it once was- many of the items you are looking for are available in a variety of sources electronically.

Determining what you will need, sifting through results, and understanding which tool to use, however, is more complicated than ever. This guide will provide you with some basic guidance about how to get started, where to look for specific materials or time periods. 

Follow the tabs on the left to locate tools to find federal and state legislation. Unless you already have a citation (i.e. bill or law number), your best bet is to start with secondary sources, which include news and newspaper articles. 

Legal and legislative databases:

  • trace the events leading to the passage of a law;
  • document the issues and facts considered by the legislature in reaching its decision and determine legislative intent
  • may include publications such as reports from committees and the record of testimony at public hearings, if available

Potential Problems

The "law" is not actually Law

If the topic being researched is not a law passed by Congress or the Florida Legislature, then there won't be legislative history materials about it. Examples include:

  • Federal and State Regulations  - regulations are created by agencies, not the legislature
  • Executive Orders
  • Failed or Vetoed Congressional Bill since the bill never became a law, there may be little or no information beyond the bill text
  • Bills currently moving through Congress or the Florida Legislature. Check the date of introduction. If it is in the current session, it may still be somewhere in the process


Bill - A bill is a legislative proposal before Congress o a legislature. Bills from each house are assigned a number in the order in which they are introduced, starting at the beginning of each session.

Legislation - Legislation refers to the preparation and enactment of laws by a legislative body through its lawmaking process. The legislative process includes evaluating, amending, and voting on proposed laws and is concerned with the words used in the bill to communicate the values, judgments, and purposes of the proposal. 

Legislative history - a published record (as of drafts and commentary by the drafters) relating to the passing of particular legislation

Legislative intent - Drafting, proposing and enacting laws based on the design, plan and purpose the legislature had.