Statute Compilations Now Available in USLM

Today GPO announced that statute compilations are now available online (here) in USLM XML. A statute compilation is a document that contains a law originally passed by Congress and shows how later legislation has amended the law.

A statute compilation is a useful tool to legislative drafters because a significant amount of federal law is not officially codified and you have to look to each of the individual laws passed by Congress — applying later legislation to earlier legislation — to determine the current text of the law. That process is described here.

United States Legislative Markup XML (USLM XML) is a way of encoding the metadata — the information about a bill — in an electronic file that accompanies the legislation. It can identify when the law was enacted, who its sponsors were, and provide an outline of its sections and structure.

The publication of statute compilations in USLM XML is a significant achievement. This makes it much easier to use technology to maintain and update the statute compilation as new legislation is enacted. It also makes it possible to use automation to support the consideration of legislation: to show how a proposed law would amend the actual law.

One practical effect is that this can make it possible to provide real-time feedback to people drafting and debating legislation so that can more easily understand what a proposed law would do. It will be used as a building block in concert with the comparative print project, which is being developed by the House of Representatives and shows how a bill would amend a law.