So let’s say your reading your gmail and you happen to take a look at what’s happening in the news.  You read that we are about to face the biggest financial crisis our nation has yet to experience.  Newsmakers and lawmakers are calling for a bailout.  The article mentions “H.R. 1424.”  What is this?

This is shorthand for House of Representatives bill number 1424, and did you know you have access to this legislation?

One way is searching for the bill number in GPO Access after the bill has been released.  Another way is by logging into LexisNexis Congressional.  At the main menu, on the left hand side, select Legislative Histories, Bills & Laws.  Then select the “Get a Document” tab,choose “Bill Tracking” and then type in 1424 in the search box.  Congressional bill H.R. 1424 was the bill passed on October 3, 2008.

What about H.R. 3997 which did not pass on September 29, 2008?  Again, repeat the above search, but this time search for 3997.

These bills are considered primary source documents.  To gain insight into what the bill means, use secondary source information such as newspapers, articles, blogs, etc., which will give you analysis of the bill’s text.  One way to find secondary sources is to search the CQ Electronic Library (click on “connect to this title”).  Searching this database will allow you to simultaneously search many well known sources of information about congress. Use the advanced search to target what you are searching for: you can limit your results by topic, type of document and date.