Canton Repository

March 12, 2007

THOMAS tool can help track Congress

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON Keeping track of how your representative or senator voted, what bills he has introduced or the status of other legislation is easy with the help of a research tool named after Thomas Jefferson.

The THOMAS system, launched by the Library of Congress in 1995, offers easy access to information on legislation, activities in Congress and even presidential nominations and treaties.

Start off by going to:

Say you want to find out how Reps. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, or Zack Space, D-Dover, voted on the latest legislation to go before Congress. Scroll to the bottom of the home page and click on "roll call votes." Under "House," click on "1st session" of "110th."

Before you is a list of bills voted on during the past few days. It shows the bill number, title and whether it passed (P) or failed (F). Click on the roll call number at the far left for a breakdown of how each lawmaker voted.

For more information on the bill, click on the bill number hyperlink.

The same can be done for senators.

What if you want to look up information on a bill that hasn't been voted on yet?

Under "search bill text," put in the bill number or a keyword. For example, say you need information on H.R. 198, a bill to preserve the name of Mount McKinley that was introduced by Regula. Write in "hr 198," click on "bill number" and then click "search." THOMAS will display the bill text and several options for additional information. Click on "bill summary and status" for a list of sponsors, a summary of the bill and its status. (This one has been referred to a committee, but not yet voted on by that committee.)

To view the legislation that a lawmaker has introduced, go to the "browse bills by sponsor" feature and use the drop-down menu to find the lawmaker's name and click on it. Links to the bills introduced during the current legislative session appear.

When legislation is passed and signed into law, it becomes a "public law." Public laws are categorized within the two-year congressional session when they became law. Say you want to find out which bills sponsored by Regula became law during the 2005-2006 (109th) session.

Click on "public laws," then on "109," then on "view." A list of all laws enacted during this time appears. Under the "edit" function at top of screen, click on "find on this page," write in "Regula" and click again. The tool will highlight Regula's name in each law where he served as the sponsor.