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About Public and Private Laws

After the President signs a bill into law, it is delivered to the Office of the Federal Register (OFR), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) where it is assigned a law number, legal statutory citation (public laws only), and prepared for publication as a slip law. Private laws receive their legal statutory citations when they are published in the United States Statutes at Large.  

 

Prior to publication as a slip law, OFR also prepares marginal notes and citations for each law, and a legislative history for public laws only. Until the slip law is published, through the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), the text of the law can be found by accessing the enrolled version of the bill.

 

Note: 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).

 

What is the difference between a public and private law?

Public Laws

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. Private laws 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.

 

Statutes at Large and the United States Code

At the end of each session of Congress, the slip laws are compiled into bound volumes called the Statutes at Large, and they are known as "session laws." The Statutes at Large present a chronological arrangement of the laws in the exact order that they have been enacted.

 

Every six years, public laws are incorporated into the United States Code, which is a codification of all general and permanent laws of the United States. A supplement to the United States Code is published during each interim year until the next comprehensive volume is published. The U.S. Code is arranged by subject matter, and it shows the present status of laws with amendments already incorporated in the text that have been amended on one or more occasions. It is maintained as a separate collection.

 

Public and Private Laws Side Notes  

The Office of the Federal Register (OFR) prepares each law for publication as a slip law (an individual pamphlet print) and then compiles, indexes, and publishes them in the United States Statutes at Large (a permanent bound volume of the laws for each session of Congress).

 

Slip laws are presented exactly as they appear in the official printed version. Therefore, all side notes appear in the margins in their original format. Side notes are displayed in different ways in ASCII text and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files.

 

Public and private laws contain the following information in either the header or side notes:

  • Public law number

  • Date of enactment

  • Bill number

  • Popular name of the law

  • Statutes at Large citation

  • U.S. Code citation

  • Legislative history (Public laws only)

 

ASCII text: Side notes appear in double angle brackets within the body of the text. For example: In the printed version and ASCII text file of Public Law 106-1, "To restore the management and personnel authority of the Mayor of the District of Columbia," the short title appears as "<<NOTE: District of Columbia Management Restoration Act of 1999.>>" immediately following the clause that begins with "Be it enacted." Example

 

PDF files: Side notes appear exactly the same way that those changes appear in the printed version.  For example: In the printed version and PDF file of Public Law 106-1, "To restore the management and personnel authority of the Mayor of the District of Columbia," the short title ("District of Columbia Management Restoration Act of 1999") appears as a side note in the right margin, adjacent to the clause that begins with "Be it enacted." Example

 

 

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