Tax Money Well Spent. Do you have some government-related research papers due? Are you just plain interested in what Congress is doing about the economic downturn or Iraq or Medicaid or . . . whatever?
Although thinking is rarely used in the same sentence as "Congress," the Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress is known as the research and policy analysis “think tank” for the U.S. Congress. CRS is literally a part of the Legislative Branch, and exists ONLY to serve the needs of Congress. Their reports are among the more authoritative and actively sought policy documents. CRS reports are renowned for their nonpartisan treatment of even the more controversial issues. If you want to get all sides of an issue, CRS publications are an excellent source. Officially, however, their publications are available to constituents (i.e. "us") through Congressional offices, but if you request one today by phone or email from your Congressperson's or Senator's D.C. or district office, it'll likely be weeks before you receive it. And, candidly, some never arrive at all.
But here's the good news not known by many and not appreciated by the management of CRS: many CRS reports are available online, for free, to be downloaded and printed. Where? There are a few out there,* but my favorite is a site called "Open CRS: Congressional Research Service Reports for the People," and although it has a surprisingly basic search engine, it's FREE, has a collection of CRS reports that is large, and is updated regularly.
Also note - and this is a good idea - on its homepage you'll see that you can subscribe to an RSS Feed, so you can keep up with the newly added reports on a regular basis. The feeds come out about every 10 days and it's the best way to see the new issues that Congress is dealing with, and many are among the hottest topics of the day. (Lately via Pirate Bay Torrents you may also download an enormous number of reports via the torrents system.)
Finding Federal Laws. I subscribe to OpenCRS's feed, and receive a regular listing of newly released reports. Today, I learned of a report that you'll find useful. It's titled "Federal Statutes: What They Are and Where to Find Them" (January 30, 2009), written by an old colleague, Cassandra Foley. This short eight pager is full of excellent info, and very practical in its focus. It'll be a valuable piece of your Snoopers Tips binder and/or bookmark folder. The best part of it, I think, is its discussion of Internet access to federal laws.Ms. Foley provides a number of Internet sites that are authoritative, and provides suggestions as to how to avoid the misleading ones.
Note that Ms. Foley's phone number is provided, but also note that CRS does not accept calls or any other kind of inquiries directly from the public. As I mentioned, Congress is their sole client. All inquiries to CRS must come via your Congressional/Senatorial office, either in D.C. or from district offices. It's an understandable policy.
To easily keep up with new CRS Reports, especially for students who have classes in political science/government or are members of campus political organizations, I'd suggest subscribing to OpenCRS's feed. You'll be amazed at how many interesting topics are presented for access in each feed (about every 10 days). It'll really come in handy for those pesky research papers and presentations. Here's the OpenCRS site, and you'll find the feeds hyperlinks at the bottom of the page.
Finally, for those who'd like more information about CRS, here's their 2007 Annual Report.
More Snoopers Tips coming soon!! Happy hunting . . . for federal statutes, that is! (We really need to get out more often, don't we?)
* University of North Texas Libraries (Free, permits you to browse by subject);
The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) (Free, for national security, foreign policy and related topics);
Franklin Pierce Law Center IP Mall (Free, for CRS intellectual property, cyberlaw and electronic commerce publications)
Avoid Penny Hill Press, it's a fee-for-service site, and doesn't offer anything that justifies its cost.