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Laws and Legislation

Laws and Legislation

As long as people have lived communally, there have been laws. The earliest known book of laws dates from around 2100 B.C. from the City-State of Ur in the Middle East.  The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, and Romans all had codified laws.  The Roman Legal Code compiled by Justinian in the 6th Century has heavily influenced the American Law just as it has that of most of the European nations.  Although the Justinian Code influenced American Law, the root of American legal code is the British Common Law.   From this, Federal, State and Local governments have developed and codified the laws that govern us today.  These laws are constantly changing and evolving, as society changes and evolves. 


Merriam-Webster defines law as ...the whole system or set of rules made by the government of a town, state, county, etc.  

A slightly longer definition is:

principles and regulations  established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision...

All laws start as an idea.  In the United States, the idea in the form of a bill goes through the following basic steps on its way to becoming a law.

  • It is proposed
  • It is studied
  • It is debated
  • It is voted
  • It is signed

"In a typical year, more than 5,000 bills are introduced in Congress.  But only about 150 of them become law."   Not all bills proposed become law, but how a bill becomes law is much the same on the federal, state, and local levels.  Other countries use other methods to create laws.

The primary focus of this section is on the Federal Government and how it handles Laws and Legislation.  The information presented is from a U.S. perspective.  There is also information on how the State of Ohio handles enacting laws, as well as resources for locating county, municipal, foreign and international laws and legislation.  Although in the United States it is handled in a similar matter from the smallest town to the Federal government, this is not always the case outside the U.S.  Each country handles these matters in different ways.  It can be a bit of a challenge especially on the local level and the international to locate legal information. 


Further Reading

Laws and Legal Research. (NOLO) General how to do legal research with definitions of common legal terms, links to helpful legal web sites, etc.