Congressional Information

Laws and Statutes

What are Public and Private Laws?

Public and private laws are also known as slip laws. A slip law is an official publication of the law and is "competent evidence," admissible in all state and Federal courts and tribunals of the United States (1 U.S.C. 113).

Most laws passed by Congress are public laws. Public laws affect society as a whole. Public laws citations include the abbreviation, Pub.L., the Congress number (e.g. 107), and the number of the law. For example: Pub.L. 107-006.

Private Laws affect an individual, family, or small group, and are enacted to assist citizens that have been injured by government programs or who are appealing an executive agency ruling such as deportation. Private laws citations include the abbreviation, Pvt.L., the Congress number (e.g. 107), and the number of the law. For example: Pvt.L. 107-006.

From About Public and Private Laws

Find Public Laws

Find Statutes at Large

Legislative Histories

Published legislative histories can be very helpful for tracking the history of legislation, especially if it took several Congresses to make it all the way through the process.  A legislative history tracks the history of a law from its initial introduction all the way through its enactment by Congress.  This includes the various versions along the way as well as the related debate, reports and testimony or hearings.