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Session Law (Oregon Laws) vs. Codes (Oregon Revised Statutes)


In response to the person who asked (in a Comment to this post – and thank you for the question – it is an excellent one!) the difference between a session law and a code, specifically between the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) and the Oregon Laws, I offer this. It is about as brief a description as can be made, but it is followed by suggestions for further reading.

(Keep in mind, that this is interesting stuff to law librarians and not necessarily to others, so you can always visit your local law library to see and hear and not just read about these government publications. We love this stuff: a previous Washington D.C. tour highlight for a bunch of us law librarians was a visit to the Office of Law Revision Counsel that prepares the U.S. Code (not to be confused with the session law, the U.S. Statutes at Large).

Oregon Laws: a chronological compilation of laws passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. Published officially by Oregon in a set called, Oregon Laws.

Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS): The ORS is a subject compilation of the Laws of Oregon. (As you might imagine, a chronological compilation of laws would become virtually useless in a very short time given subsequent amendments to and repeals of existing laws, in part and in full, thus, the creation of the ORS.)

See also the term codification.

Further reading:

ORS, Preface
ORS, Chapter 174
Oregon Legislature Citizen Engagement website

See also these, from official publications:

Oregon Laws

A bound compilation of all session laws enacted and selected memorials and resolutions adopted during each regular or special session of the Legislative Assembly. Oregon Laws also contains measures referred by the Legislative Assembly or proposed by initiative petition and enacted by a vote of the people. Oregon Laws also includes tables of Senate and House bills enacted during the session and tables of “sections amended, repealed or added to” and a general index. Available online and in Legislative Counsel

Oregon Revised Statutes

A multi-volume set of Oregon statutes, codified by classification system of subjects that are of a “general, public and permanent nature.” Oregon Revised Statutes includes the Oregon and United States Constitutions, a general index, comparative section tables and annotations. A new edition of Oregon Revised Statutes is published by the Legislative Counsel Committee after adjournment of each regular session of the Legislative Assembly.”

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3 responses to “Session Law (Oregon Laws) vs. Codes (Oregon Revised Statutes)”

  1. andrew says:

    hi there,

    what about session laws (Or. Laws) that do not appear in the revised statutes? are those session laws valid pieces of legislation? and haven't they been codified – is it that the oregon legislature is simply “between codifications,” or were the laws not deemed important enough for codification?


  2. Laura Orr says:

    The short answer is, yes, they are law even though they are not in the ORS (i.e. have not been codified).

    And, yes, sometimes they are not in the ORS because one is “between codifications,” which is a nice way to describe that pre-codification stage.

    But a law is a law, whether it is codified or not. There are other reasons why it might not be in the ORS, just as there are many U.S. laws that are not in the U.S. Code. But a public law is still a law, and enforceable.

    Think about codifications as being merely a convenience, to make the researcher's life easier. Codifications bring laws together by subject, whereas the session law are organized chronologically, which makes research very difficult – although there are times you need that chronological compilation.

    And to make a short answer just a little longer, I could also talk about “positive law,” which isn't the opposite of negative law, but I won't for now.

  3. […] that any new laws passed in the 2016 and 2017 Oregon legislative sessions WILL NOT appear in codified format until the 2017 Oregon Revised Statutes are published in late 2017 or early […]

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