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1.1: How Federal Laws Are Made

  • Page ID
    178781

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    Congress is the legislative branch of the federal government in the United States and makes laws for the nation. Congress has two legislative bodies or chambers: the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. Anyone elected to either body can propose a new law. A bill is a proposal for a new law. Either chamber then follows these steps:

    1. Once a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee whose members research, discuss, and make changes to the bill.
    2. The bill is then put before that chamber to be voted on.
    3. If the bill passes one body of Congress, it goes to the other body to undergo a similar process of research, discussion, changes, and voting.
    4. Once both bodies vote to accept a bill, they must work out any differences between the two versions. Both chambers then vote on the same bill and, if it passes, they present it to the president.
    5. The president then considers the bill. The president can approve the bill and sign it into law or veto the bill.
    6. If the president chooses to veto a bill, in most cases Congress can vote to override that veto and the bill becomes a law. However, if the president pocket vetoes a bill after Congress has adjourned, the veto cannot be overridden.

    The United States Code contains our federal laws. New federal laws appear in each edition of the United States Statutes at Large. There is a new edition for each session of Congress.

    In addition, laws that appropriate (i.e., assign to a particular recipient, purpose, or use) funding include provisions that require Congress to decide, after a set period, whether the legislation should be reauthorized. To do this, a new bill must be introduced that reauthorizes the provisions of the law, makes any necessary changes to the original law, and sets a new timeline for future reauthorizations.

    For example, in 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the federal law governing public education in the United States. ESEA has been reauthorized six times. In 2015, President Barack Obama signed the most recent reauthorization of the law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The purpose of ESSA is to ensure public schools provide a quality education to all students, including exceptional students.

    IDEA is the federal law that ensures all students with disabilities receive an appropriate education through special education and related services in the United States. We will talk more about these and other laws that impact the education of exceptional students later in this chapter.

    In addition, individual states also pass laws that impact the education of exceptional students. Illinois, like Congress, has two bodies, the Senate and the House of Representatives, which together are called the Illinois General Assembly. A bill becomes a law in Illinois when it passes both houses of the Illinois General Assembly with a majority vote in each house and is signed by the governor.

    The Illinois Compiled Statutes contain our state laws. State laws must meet the requirements of federal laws and may add to the federal requirements (e.g., providing additional services). In addition, state education agencies, such as the Illinois State Board of Education, are tasked with writing administrative rules. Administrative rules interpret the law and guide the actions of those affected (e.g., state agency staff, educators and clinicians, school boards).


    This page titled 1.1: How Federal Laws Are Made is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Diana Zaleski (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI)) .