Monday, January 5, 2015

Positively U.S.C. Title 54

The 114th Congress begins its first session on January 6, after a flurry of legislative activity by its predecessor: Once derided as on track to become the "least productive Congress" in modern history, the 113th Congress escaped the title by passing more than 100 new laws after the November election. (It is, however, still the second least productive Congress since 1947, with the 112th holding the dubious honor.)

Among the many laws passed between the November election and the December adjournment was H.R. 1068. This bill created a new Title 54 within the U.S. Code, dedicated to the "National Park Service and Related Programs," and enacted it into positive law. This marks the first positive law enactment since the creation of U.S.C. Title 51 (National and Commercial Space Programs) in 2010, and the second new Code title added in 2014 (Title 52, Voting and Elections, was created in August as an editorial reclassification, which did not require Congressional approval).

The new Title 54 relocates national park-related laws which were previously scattered across Title 16 (Conservation) of the U.S.C. More information about the new title 54 can be found at the Office of the Law Revision Counsel, which edits the official U.S. Code. A placeholder for the new title has already been added to the U.S. Code website; research services like Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg will add the new title's text after it is released by the OLRC. In print, the new title will appear in the 2014 annual Supplement to the 2012 edition of the U.S.C. (Supplement II). For now, Title 54's planned text can be read via the enrolled bill at

What is positive law codification? As the Office of the Law Revision Counsel explains, the first U.S. Code was published in order to arrange all of the federal laws then in force (from the chronological U.S. Statutes at Large) by their subject matter. This editorial arrangement of the general and permanent laws in force was considered to be only "prima facie evidence" of the law (i.e., in the event of a typo or other textual discrepancy, the Statutes at Large would control). Beginning in 1947, Congress enacted several U.S.C. titles into positive law, systematically revising a title and enacting it as a new statute (thus turning the U.S.C. title itself into legal evidence of the law, rather than prima facie evidence).

Currently, 27 titles of the U.S.C. have been enacted into positive law. Several other positive law efforts have been planned, with two which would enact additional Code titles rather than re-codify existing ones: Title 53 (Small Business) and Title 55 (Environment). For details about these projects, visit the OLRC Positive Law Codification page.