Federal Laws Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1967)

Forbade employers of twenty or more workers to fire or refuse to hire an individual forty to sixty-five years of age because of age, unless age was a bona fide qualification, and banned employment agencies from refusing to refer a job applicant because of age and from indulging in other discriminatory practices. The act was amended in 1978 to allow an employer to require workers to retire involuntarily at age seventy.

Agricultural Marketing Act (1929)

In response to falling crop prices, the act created the Federal Farm Board (FFB), with a revolving fund of $500 million. The FFB’s two major duties were promoting the effective merchandising of agricultural commodities in interstate and foreign commerce and making agriculture economically equivalent to other industries. The FFB bought, sold, and stored agricultural surpluses, and lent money to farm cooperatives to strengthen them. However, the federal purchases served mostly to encourage farmers to raise larger crops to generate larger profits. In the end, the failing FFB had to sell its holdings at a loss of $200 million.

Agriculture Adjustment Act (1933)

Intended to provide emergency assistance to farmers during the Depression years as well as to support prices and provide assistance with farm mortgages, the act authorized the secretary of agriculture to fix marketing quotas for major farm products, to take surplus production off the market, and to offer producers of staple crops payments in return for voluntarily reducing the acreage devoted to raising such crops. The act created the Commodity Credit Corporation to undertake price-support activities for certain agricultural commodities. It also granted loans to farmers who agreed to sign production-control agreements. Certain production-control features of the act were later declared unconstitutional.

Airline Deregulation Act (1978)

Removed government control from commercial aviation and exposed the passenger airline industry to market forces. Since 1938, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) had regulated all domestic air transport as a public utility, setting fares, routes, and schedules. The regulation gradually resulted in inefficiency and higher costs. The Federal Aviation Administration was directed to develop safety standards for commuter airlines, transfer remaining regulatory authority in the CAB to the U.S. Department of Transportation, and dissolve the board in 1985. The effects of deregulation included increased air travel due to generally lower airfares, the greater use of major airports by airline companies, and the transfer of shorter routes from major carriers to smaller, regional airline companies.

Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)

Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, this act prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability in the areas of private employment, state and local governments, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. Qualified individuals with disabilities were protected in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. An employer was required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business.

Antidumping Act (1974)

Prevented the sale of goods at a lower price than the sales price in the country in which the goods were made. The act allowed extra duties to be imposed on imported products if the U.S. Treasury found that they were sold at less than fair value, thereby harming domestic manufacturers of similar goods.

Architectural Barriers Act (1968)

Required that all new federal buildings and facilities constructed or altered with federal funds since 1968 be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. The act also mandated that modifications be made to existing buildings and facilities to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to any program or opportunity provided to employees or visitors. It recommended that the following officials work together to develop accessibility standards for their respective agencies: the administrator of general services and the secretaries of housing and urban development, defense, and health, education, and welfare. To ensure compliance with the standards, the act established the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) in accordance with section 502 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The act also made it unlawful to design and construct covered buildings and facilities that did not meet the minimum design requirements of the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), published in the Federal Register on August 7, 1984.

Ashurst-Sumners Act (1935)

Forbade shipping of prison-made goods into states that prohibited convict labor. The act also required that prison-made goods shipped into states that allowed convict labor have labels identifying the place of manufacture. The act was amended in 1979.

Bank Holding Company Act (1956)

Created in response to banks forming holding companies that owned both banking and nonbanking businesses, the act established standards for the formation of bank holding companies, which were defined as companies that controlled two or more banks. It limited the holding companies to such activities as banking, managing banks, and providing services to affiliated banks. The act prohibited holding companies from acquiring voting securities of certain companies that were not banks and prohibited bank holding companies in one state from acquiring banks in other states. It was amended in 1966, 1970, 1994, and 1998.

Bank Secrecy Act (1970)

Also known as the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act, Anti-Money Laundering LawRequired banks to keep records of their customers’ transactions and report any daily financial dealings involving more than $10,000 to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, because these dealings might involve money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities.

Banking Act (1935)

Amended the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, and other banking regulations to make these laws more specific. The act increased the maximum liability per depositor from $2,500 to $5,000 and authorized the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to assist in merging failing banks into ongoing banks or to engage in purchase and assumption transactions. The act renamed the Federal Reserve Board as the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve system. The board was given authority to regulate the discount rates of the district banks, to vary required reserve ratios within prescribed limits, to impose credit controls, and to set margin requirements on the purchase of stocks and bonds. The act renamed the Federal Reserve’s policy-making group as the Federal Open Market Committee and moved it to Washington, D.C. It also extended Regulation Q ceilings on interest rates to nonmember banks and prohibited nonmember banks from paying interest on demand deposits.

Bankruptcy Reform Act (1978)

The first complete overhaul of bankruptcy in seventy-five years, the act restructured old laws to permit a company to return to fiscal soundness. The act enabled business creditors, in certain instances, to file their own reorganization plans for a company and allowed them to keep more property after bankruptcy than they could under state laws. It also allowed small businesses to pay off their debts gradually under a procedure similar to a reorganization.

Bituminous Coal Act (1937)

Regulated the sale and distribution of bituminous coal in interstate commerce to eliminate unfair competition. The act also included rights of collective bargaining and price regulation.

Bland-Allison Act (1878)

Created in response to the five-year depression following the Panic of 1873, the act was meant to solve the liquidity problems brought on by the gold standard by providing for freer coinage of silver. The U.S. Treasury was required to buy $2-4 million worth of silver bullion monthly at market prices, and the silver was to be used to make coins at the ratio of 16:1 silver to gold. In reality the U.S. Treasury bought less than $2 million worth of silver and never circulated the silver dollars. The act was repealed by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890.

Budget Reconciliation Act (Deficit Reduction Act; 1993)

Raised taxes retroactively so that the United States could sustain its economic growth and balance the budget by 1998. The act increased taxes only for the top 2 percent of taxpayers. It was credited as the major cause of the deficit reduction and eventual surpluses during the 1990’s.

Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)

Prohibited Chinese laborers and mining workers from entering the United States for ten years, and excluded Chinese immigrants from U.S. citizenship. Repealed by the Magnuson Act of 1943, which permitted an annual quota of 105 Chinese immigrants.

Civil Rights Act* (1964)

Outlawed segregation in American schools and public places.

Clayton Antitrust Act* (1914)

Strengthened antitrust laws while protecting labor unions from its restrictions.

Clean Air Act (1990)

Aimed at reducing smog and air pollution that existed anywhere in the United States, was leaving the United States and headed for Mexico and Canada, or was entering the United States from those two countries. Through the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. government provided research, studies, engineering, and money to support clean air programs in the states. States with heavy air pollution were required to use oxygenated gasoline.

Coinage Act (1873)

@AKA = Also known as the Crime of ’73Revised coinage laws, embraced the gold standard, and demonetized silver. After 1874, because the market value of silver was higher than the price paid by the U.S. Treasury, very little silver had come to the U.S. Mint. The act was a contributing factor in the subsequent depression and later was labeled the Crime of ’73.

Commodity Exchange Act (1936)

Replaced the Grain Futures Act of 1922, established the Commodity Exchange Commission to regulate trading in the contract markets, and authorized the commission to prevent fraud and manipulation in commodities and set limitations in trading for the purpose of preventing excessive speculation. The act was the basis for the creation of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 1974 and the National Futures Association in 1982.

Communications Act (1934)

Combined and reorganized existing provisions of laws concerning radio and telephone service (the Radio Act of 1927 and the Mann-Elkins Act of 1919). The act replaced the Federal Radio Commission with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and transferred regulation of interstate telephone service from the Interstate Commerce Commission to the FCC. It was amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (1975)

One of the five major domestic programs called block grants, the act invested $55 billion in helping place disadvantaged, long-term unemployed or inefficiently employed people in jobs with a future. It was replaced by the Job Training Partnership Act of 1983.

Consumer Credit Protection Act (Truth-in-Lending Act; 1968)

The first major attempt to protect consumers from predatory credit practices, the act applied to loans made for personal, family, and household purposes. It required lenders to disclose the annual percentage rate and the total finance charge on a loan and to provide consumers with standardized information regarding terms of credit for the purpose of comparing the cost of borrowing among different lenders.

Consumer Product Safety Act (1972)

The first attempt to protect consumers from dangerous products, the act controlled the processing, manufacturing, and distribution of products that may cause unreasonable risk of personal injury. The act established the Consumer Safety Commission to develop safety standards, pursue recalls for dangerous products, and ban dangerous products with no feasible alternative.

Copeland Act (Copeland Anti-Kickback Act; 1934)

Made it illegal for employers or their agents to extract a payment as a condition of continued employment and prohibited them from using force, threats, or other means to secure the return of any part of a worker’s wages as a condition of retaining the job.

Copyright Revision Act (1976)

A significant revision of the copyright laws of 1909, this act extended the length of copyright protection to the duration of the creator’s life plus seventy years. It set standards for fair use and reproduction of copyrighted material and created a new system of compulsory licensing for cable television and jukeboxes. The act preempted state laws governing copyrighted materials that come within the scope of the act. It was amended in 1980 to include computer software and by the Copyright Extension Term Act of 1998.

Gold Standard Act (Currency Act; 1900)

Established gold as the sole legal-tender coinage, putting a halt to bimetallism. The act set the value of the U.S. dollar at $20.67 per troy ounce of gold. The U.S. Treasury was required to maintain a minimum gold reserve of $150 million and was authorized to issue bonds to protect the minimum when necessary.

Davis-Bacon Act (1931)

Protected local labor wage standards and fringe benefits on government contracts. The act required that wages be based on rates usually paid for the service in a particular geographic area. It applied to all contracts of more than $2,000 and was amended in 1935, 1940, and 1964.

Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act (1980)

Abolished the power of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve system to set the interest rates on savings accounts. The act allowed credit unions and savings and loans institutions to offer checking accounts, allowed banks to merge, and gave the Federal Reserve greater control over nonmember banks.

Electronic Fund Transfer Act (Regulation E; 1978)

Primarily a consumer protection measure, the act required financial institutions to inform new customers of the terms and conditions of electronic fund transfer services, and the type and availability of services and service charges. The act also required these institutions to disclose consumers’ rights to receive documentation of transfers and to have errors corrected, their liabilities for unauthorized transfers, preauthorized transfer procedures, and the institutions’ liabilities if they fail to make or stop transfers.

Embargo Acts* (1806-1813)

Created in response to British and French abuses of United States shipping during the Napoleonic Wars, the act was designed to prove U.S. neutrality by stopping trading with either country, causing a devastating economic downturn in the United States while having no noticeable effect on either of the belligerents.

Emergency Home Finance Act (1970)

Created the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) under the Federal Home Loan Bank System to provide a secondary market for conventional loans as well as for Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration mortgages. The act extended from twenty to thirty years the period allowed for associations to accumulate the reserves required by the Federal Savings and Loans Insurance Corporation.

Emergency Price Controls Act (1942)

Created in response to inflationary pressures resulting from the transformation of a peacetime economy to wartime economy, the act established the Office of Price Administration to set up a universal, nationwide price regulatory system. Price controls also applied to apartment rentals in residential areas. However, items were bought and sold without the price controls in the black market.

Employment Retirement Income Security Act (1974)

Enforced by the Employee Benefits Security Administration in the U.S. Department of Labor, the act protected retirement benefits, especially for spouses, for the first time. Participants were provided with information about their benefit plans (features, funding, minimum standards for participation, vesting benefit accrual, and so on) and the right to sue for benefits and breaches of financial duty. Payment of certain benefits was also guaranteed through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Energy Independence and Security Act (CLEAN Energy Act; 2007)

Focused on measures of energy efficiency and energy savings, development of alternative energy, and automobile fuels.

Energy Policy Act (1992)

Administered by the U.S. Department of Energy, the act aimed at reducing dependence on imported petroleum; achieving energy efficiency for commercial buildings, utilities, and equipment; and developing alternative fuels, renewable energy technologies, and electric vehicles.

Energy Policy Act (2005)

Created in response to the growing energy problem, the act provided tax incentives and loan guarantees to develop various kinds of energy. It also amended the Uniform Time Act of 1966 for daylight saving time.

Energy Tax Act (1978)

Imposed excise taxes on gas guzzlers, changed excise taxes on motor fuels, eliminated excise taxes on re-refined lubricating oil, gave tax credits for energy saving in the home, and gave additional investment credits to encourage business energy conservation.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act (1975)

Required that credit be made available to individuals without regard to marital status or sex. The act applied to banks, financial companies, department stores, credit card issuers, and providers of business and consumer loans. Credit applicants were to be notified of the action taken on their applications within thirty days of applying for credit and were to be informed of the reason if credit was denied. The act was oriented more toward upholding civil rights than consumer protection.

Equal Pay Act (1963)

This act, which amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, aimed at abolishing wage differentials based on sex. It required that men and women doing the same work be paid equal wages, and it prohibited lowering pay for men to equalize rates. It acted as a wage equalizer between men and women for equal jobs and had the potential of acting as a price floor on the salaries of men or women for particular jobs.

Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (2003)

Aimed at protecting consumers against identity theft by providing them with free reporting of their credit history. The act allowed consumers to receive one report yearly from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Trans-Union).

Fair Credit Reporting Act (1970)

Passed as an amendment to the Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968 to protect consumers against the dissemination of inaccurate information that might reduce their chances of obtaining credit, insurance, or employment. The act gave consumers access to their credit files at any credit bureau, required the deletion of obsolete information, and provided for the correction of inaccurate data. It presented consumers with detailed descriptions of their rights and stated that their complaints had to be filed within sixty days and resolved within ninety days after filing.

Fair Labor Standards Act (Federal Wage-Hour Act; 1938)

Established a national minimum wage, guaranteed time and a half for work beyond forty hours a week, and regulated employment of those less than eighteen years of age. Administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, the act applied to employees engaged in interstate commerce and employed by an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce unless the employer can claim an exemption from coverage. A 2007 amendment was designed to result in a minimum wage of $7.25 by the summer of 2009.

Family Entertainment and Copyright Act (2005)

Criminalized the use of recording equipment to make copies of films in motion picture theaters and prohibited making a commercially distributed film available on a computer network accessible to the public.

Federal Coal Mine Safety Act (1952)

Administered by the Bureau of Mines of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the act set hazard standards and provided for enforcement of safety regulations. It was extended to all underground mines in 1966.

Federal Corrupt Practices Act (1910)

Required for the first time the public disclosure of financial spending by single-state political parties and election committees in House general elections. An amendment to the act in 1911 applied this requirement to primary elections and Senate candidates and also for the first time required financial disclosure by candidates. An amendment in 1925 extended the requirement to multistate political parties and election committees. The act was repealed by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.

Federal Credit Union Act (1934)

Created the Bureau of Federal Credit Unions to charter and oversee nonprofit, member-owned unions, where credit was to be made available and thrift promoted. The act has been amended periodically to keep it up to date.

Federal Hazardous Substances Act (1960)

Authorized the secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to require warning labels for hazardous household substances (toxic, corrosive, irritant, and radioactive substances, among others). It was amended by the Child Protection Act of 1966 and the Child Protection and Toy Safety Act of 1969.

Federal Reserve Act (Glass-Owen Act; 1913)

Established a system of twelve federal banks called the Federal Reserve system to manage the nation’s money supply. The Federal Reserve system was designed to act as the last-resort lender to banks, regulate the money supply, determine the legal reserves of member banks, oversee the U.S. Mint, effect transfer of funds, facilitate the payment system, provide for monetary policy, and control inflation and interest rates.

Financial Institutions Rescue, Recovery and Enforcement Act (1989)

Abolished the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation and placed deposit insurance for savings and loans under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The act also abolished the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and placed the regulation of thrifts under the Office of Thrift Supervision within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It established the Federal Housing Finance Board as the regulator and supervisor of the twelve district Federal Home Loan Banks and established housing programs through funding from the Federal Home Loan Banks to member institutions for long-term, low- and moderate-income, owner-occupied and affordable rental housing. It also provided funds to help with the liquidation of failing savings and loans institutions. Surviving savings and loans institutions were made subject to higher deposit insurance premiums and tighter financial standards. The act created the Resolution Trust Corporation to help with closing or merging problematic savings and loans.

Flammable Fabrics Act (1953)

Banned the sale of certain items of clothing and household furnishings that present an unreasonable risk of significant property damage, personal injury, or death due to fire. The act provided flammability requirements for children’s sleepwear up to size fourteen.

Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act (Title XXI; 1938)

Created in response to the death of more than one hundred patients due to a sulfanilamide medication, the act replaced the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. The act stipulated that the Food and Drug Administration would oversee the safety of foods, drugs, and cosmetics. It has been amended many times.

Freedom of Information Act (1966)

Declared that, with certain exceptions, the public had the right to information collected and kept by federal government agencies. The act made these records more accessible to public scrutiny by preventing the agencies from withholding the information. It was amended in 1974 and 1976.

Fur Products Labeling Act (1951)

Required fur garments be labeled with the names of the animals killed. The act did not apply to garments made with a relatively small quantity or value of fur, defined by the Federal Trade Commission as anything worth $150 or less.

G.I. Bill* (Servicemen’s Readjustment Act; 1944)

Provided subsidized education for soldiers who served in the armed forces in World War II.

Glass-Steagall Act (Banking Act; 1933)

Enacted after the Great Depression and widespread bank failures, the act divided the banking industry into two by separating commercial banking from investment banking, prohibited paying interest on demand deposits, established Regulation Q to set maximum interest rates on interest-bearing deposits, and established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). It prohibited commercial banks from underwriting corporate securities for fear of bank failures and prohibited investment banks from accepting deposits. The act also prohibited banks from sponsoring or distributing mutual fund shares. The primary goals of the FDIC were providing deposit insurance to bank customers and preventing individual bank failures from spreading to other banks.

Gold Purchase Act (1974)

Ended the ban on the private possession of gold imposed by the Gold Reserve Act of 1934. Created in response to the Great Depression, the 1934 act nationalized all gold by ordering the Federal Reserve banks to turn over their gold supply to the U.S. Treasury and devalued the gold dollar so that it would be worth no more than 60 percent of its existing weight.

Gold Reserve Act (1934)

Created in response to the effects of the Great Depression, the act authorized the president of the United States to devalue the dollar in terms of gold from 50 to 60 percent, authorized the U.S. Treasury to acquire all gold held by the Federal Reserve banks in return for gold certificates, and abolished coinage of gold and the redemption of money in gold.

Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR Act; 1976)

An amendment to antitrust laws, this act required companies to notify the Federal Trade Commission and the assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice of their plans to buy more than $1.5 million worth or 15 percent of a company.

Highway Beautification Act (1985)

Passed as the result of the lack of participation in the Bonus Act of 1958, the act was the first to attempt to control billboards along highways. States were required to remove nonconforming signs along highways after a five-year period but had to pay their owners just compensation for removal costs. States that failed to do so were subject to losing 10 percent of their federal highway funds.

Homeowners’ Loan Act (1933)

Established the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation with $200 million from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and authorized it to release up to $2 billion in tax-exempt bonds in exchange for mortgages. The act was credited as the force behind the rise of homeownership during the 1990’s.

Homestead Act* (1862)

Gave federal land to farmers who would live on the land for a number of years and improve it, producing a very significant political and economic impact.

Immigration Reform and Control Act (Simpson-Mazzoli Act; 1986)

Granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants who had entered the United States before January 1, 1982, and had resided there continuously. Based on the theory that low prospects for employment would reduce illegal immigration, it criminalized the act of knowingly hiring or recruiting undocumented aliens.

Income Tax Law (1861)

The act, part of the Revenue Act of 1861, for the first time imposed a tax on personal income to help pay for the war effort in the U.S. Civil War. It was declared unconstitutional in 1895.

Independent Treasury Act (1840)

Created in response to the damage done by the destruction of the Second Bank of the United States under the administration of Andrew Jackson, the act aimed at setting up a treasury isolated from all other banks. After Jackson transferred government funds from the central bank to state banks, the funds were used as a basis for speculation. The subsequent drain on these banks led to their collapse in the Panic of 1837. The act was repealed in 1841.

Internal Revenue Code* (1953)

Reorganized and expanded the Internal Revenue Code of 1939, which was made up of previously existing U.S. tax statutes.

Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 (National Interstate and Defense Highways Act; 1956)

Primarily intended to build highways for national defense, the act created the largest domestic public works project in the history of the United States. Some $25 billion generated through new taxes on fuels, automobiles, and tires was used to construct 40,000 miles of interstate highways over a ten-year period. The money was handled in a highway trust fund that paid 90 percent of construction costs, while the remaining 10 percent was paid by the states. A result of the act was the direct subsidization of the suburban road infrastructure.

Interstate Commerce Act (1887)

Created in response to the abuse of economic power by the railroad industry, the act established the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to regulate the practices, rates, and rules of railroads, and later of trucks engaged in interstate shipping. The ICC was abolished in 1995, and its remaining functions were transferred to the Surface Transportation Board.

Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (1968)

Required all large land sales promoters to furnish prospective buyers with a detailed and accurate report on the land and to spell out buyers’ rights in the transactions.

Investment Advisers Act (1940)

Regulated investment advisers to protect the public from false presentation and dishonest investment tactics by identifying specific unlawful activities. The act required investment advisers to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Job Training Partnership Act (1982)

Provided summer work for high-school students and training programs for low-income workers, Native Americans, migrant and seasonal workers, and veterans. The act turned over the management of training programs to the private sector and lessened the involvement of local governments. It was repealed by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.

Kerr-Smith Tobacco Control Act (1934)

Imposed processing taxes on the tobacco industry, financed a quota system for growers, and provided penalties for marketing beyond individual quotas. The act was amended in 1935.

Landrum-Griffin Act (Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act; 1959)

Designed to rid unions of corruption and to ensure democracy within unions by stipulating one person, one vote. The act contained procedures for union elections. It gave states authority over labor disputes, required workers to work on or handle goods made and shipped by nonunion labor, outlawed specific types of picketing, barred convicted felons from holding office within five years of their release from prison, and barred Communists from holding office.

Lanham Trademark Act (1947)

Governed trademarks and other symbols for identifying goods sold in interstate commerce. The act allowed a manufacturer to protect its brand or trademark by having it recorded on a government register in the U.S. Patent Office.

Lend-Lease Act* (1941)

Authorized the president of the United States to give material aid to the Allies during World War II, thereby helping to create massive new production for American industry and employment for labor.

Married Women’s Property Rights Law (1848)

Gave married women some limited property rights for the first time. Before the law, women who married relinquished their right to control their property to their husbands and did not have the right to acquire any property.

Medicare and Medicaid* (1965)

Titles XVIII and XIX, respectively, of the Social Security Act of 1965. These amendments stipulated that Medicare would provide health insurance coverage to people age sixty-five and above, or who met other special criteria, and that Medicaid would provide medical and health-related services for people with limited income and resources.

Metric Conversion Act (1975)

Created the U.S. Metric Board for planning, coordination, and public education regarding implementation of the metric system. Under the act, the metric system was to gradually replace the U.S. customary system of weights and measures for trade and commerce, and federal agencies were directed to begin conversion. The Metric Board was abolished in 1982, and the act was amended in 1988, 1996, and 2004.

Monetary Control Act (1980)

Required that all banks and institutions that accepted deposits from the public make periodic reports to the Federal Reserve system. The act required the federal government to charge banks for services that it had provided free in the past, including check clearing, wire transfer of funds, and the use of automated clearinghouse facilities.

Morrill Land-Grant Act (1862)

@AKA = Also known as the Land Grant College ActGave an eligible state 30,000 acres of federal land for each member of Congress the state had as of the 1860 census. The act stipulated that the land, or the proceeds from its sale, was to be used toward establishing and funding agricultural and industrial colleges. The federal government granted a total of 17.4 million acres, which, when sold, yielded a total endowment of $7.55 million.

Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act (1965)

This amendment to the Clean Air Act of 1963 set the first federal vehicle emissions standards, beginning with the 1968 models. These standards were based on 1963 emissions levels and required reductions of 72 percent in hydrocarbons, 56 percent in carbon monoxide, and 100 percent in crankcase hydrocarbons.

National Bank Act (1863)

Designed to raise money for the federal government during the U.S. Civil War, the act established a system of federally chartered banks and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency as a national security holding body. The act was meant to entice banks to buy federal bonds and to tax state bonds out of existence. It was replaced by the National Bank Act of 1964.

National Bankruptcy Act (1898)

Established the conditions and procedures for an institution or business to declare bankruptcy. The act was amended several times and was superseded by the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978.

National Housing Act (1934)

Created in response to bank foreclosures on homes during the Great Depression, the act established the Federal Savings and Loans Insurance Corporation to insure savings accounts at member savings associations up to $5,000. The act also established the Federal Housing Administration to insure home mortgages, low-income housing project loans, and home improvement loans made by private lenders.

National Industrial Recovery Act (1933)

Established the National Recovery Administration to stabilize the economy and the National Resources Planning Board to assist in planning the economy by providing recommendations and information. The act resulted in the imposition of pricing and production standards for all sorts of goods and services and was declared unconstitutional in 1935.

National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act; 1935)

Created the National Labor Relations Board to investigate and decide on charges of unfair labor practices and to supervise elections in which workers could decide if they wanted to be represented by a union. The act protected the rights of most workers in the private sector but did not apply to those covered by the Railroad Labor Act, agricultural employees, domestic employees, supervisors, independent contractors, and some close relatives of individual employers. The act was unenforceable during its first few years because Congress did not have the authority to regulate interstate commerce. It was declared constitutional in 1937 and amended in 1947.

National Origins Act (1924)

Part of the Immigration Act of 1924, the act limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2 percent of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States in 1890. Although the act prohibited East Asians and Asian Indians from immigrating and effectively curtailed immigration from southern and eastern Europe, it did not set limits on immigration from Latin America.

Natural Gas Policy Act (1978)

Authorized the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to regulate intrastate and interstate natural gas production. The act set wellhead price ceilings and established rules for allocating the costs of certain types of high-cost gas to industrial customers. It allowed interstate pipeline companies to sell or transport gas on behalf of an intrastate pipeline company without prior approval.

Neutrality Act* (1794)

Forbade U.S. citizens from participating in military action against any country with which the United States was not at war.

Noise Control Act (Noise Pollution and Abatement Act; 1972)

Established noise standards for items made in the United States that produced excessive sound. The act authorized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to administer programs on noise pollution, enforce noise pollution standards, and provide information about noise pollution litigation. It also authorized the EPA to work with the Federal Aviation Agency in creating noise control standards for aircraft.

Norris-LaGuardia Act (1932)

Gave employees the right to form unions without employer interference and prohibited the federal courts from issuing injunctions to prevent nonviolent labor disputes. It also prohibited so-called yellow-dog contracts, under which, as a condition of employment, workers agreed that they would not join a labor union.

North American Free Trade Agreement* (1994)

Eliminated the majority of tariffs on products traded among the United States, Mexico, and Canada, and gradually phased out other tariffs over a fifteen-year period.

Occupational Safety and Health Act* (1970)

Created the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which assumed responsibility for developing and enforcing workplace safety and health regulations.

Pacific Railway Act (1862)

Granted the Union Pacific Railroad and the Central Pacific Railroad extensive land in the western United States and issued 6 percent, thirty-year U.S. government bonds for them for their construction of the transcontinental railroad. By 1971, the railroad companies had received more than 175 million acres of public land.

Pacific Telegraph Act (1866)

To facilitate commercial, postal, and military communication among the states, the act consolidated all the telegraph companies with Western Union and continued financing the construction of a transcontinental telegraph line.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978)

This amendment to the sex discrimination section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required employers to provide the same benefits to pregnant women as they do for others with medical conditions. It applied to all areas of employment: hiring, pregnancy and maternity leave, health insurance, and fringe benefits.

Prescription Drug User Fee Act (1992)

Authorized the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collect fees from drug manufacturers when they submit a new drug approval application for use in the drug approval activities at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research or the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. To continue collecting the fees, the act required the FDA to meet certain performance benchmarks in the review process.

Privacy Act (1974)

Designed to protect citizens from invasion of privacy by the federal government, the act allowed individuals to inspect information about themselves contained in federal agency files and to challenge, correct, or amend the material. It prohibited an agency from selling an individual’s name or address for mailing list use, established a privacy protection study commission to provide Congress and the president information about problems related to privacy in the public and private sectors, and made it illegal for any federal, state, or local agency to deny an individual any benefit provided by law because of refusal to disclose his or her Social Security number to the agency. The act exempted the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Census Bureau, congressional investigations, and federal law enforcement and statistical agencies. It was amended by the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988.

Pure Food and Drug Act (1906)

Initially concerned with the correct labeling of products, the act outlawed unsafe and, later, safe but inefficacious products. It was replaced by the more comprehensive Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938.

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act* (1970)

Provided for extended penalties for criminal acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

Railroad Retirement Act (1935)

Administered by the Railroad Retirement Board, the act set up railroad pension payments for retired employees and their families.

Railway Labor Act (1926)

Provided for mediation of labor disputes between railway companies and the unions that represented their employees. The act authorized the National Railroad Adjustment Board, established by the parties, to resolve disputes, and established the National Mediation Board to resolve disputes that the Adjustment Board could not. It also promoted voluntary arbitration to resolve any disputes that remained after going through both boards. The 1934 amendment to the act prohibited so-called yellow-dog contracts that forced workers to agree, as a condition of employment, that they would not join a labor union. The 1936 amendment extended the act to cover airline employees.

Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (1974)

Created in response to kickback practices in the real estate settlement process, the act, which became effective in 1975, provided comprehensive guidelines for loan closing costs and settlement practices. It stipulated that the consumers receive specific disclosures at the time of application for a mortgage, before closing, and at and after settlement. It also prohibited kickbacks and referral fees on federally related mortgage loans. It was amended in 1976.

Reconstruction Finance Corporation Act (1932)

Established the Reconstruction Finance Corporation with a $2 billion fund to provide aid to state and local governments, and to make loans to banks, railroads, farm mortgage associations, and other businesses. The agency became bogged down in bureaucracy and failed to disburse many of its funds or to reverse the increase in unemployment. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt streamlined the agency’s bureaucracy, increased its funding, and used it to help restore business prosperity.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act (Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Act, Sox, and Sarbox; 2002)

Created in response to the accounting scandals at companies such as Enron, Tyco International, and WorldCom, which cost investors billions of dollars, the act established the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and authorized it to oversee, regulate, inspect, and discipline accounting firms in their roles as auditors of public companies. The act also established new or enhanced standards for public company boards, management, and public accounting firms.

Sherman Antitrust Act* (1890)

Addressed single-firm conduct by providing a remedy against monopolies acquired or maintained through prohibited conduct. With regard to multiple-firm conduct, the act prohibited contracts restraining interstate trade or commerce.

Sherman Silver Purchase Act (1890)

Created in response to the growing complaints of farmers who were in debt because of droughts, the act was designed to boost the economy. The act required the U.S. government to buy 4.5 million ounces of silver bullion every month in addition to the $2-4 million worth of silver required by the Bland-Allison Act of 1878. It also stipulated that the U.S. Treasury make purchases with notes that could be redeemed for either silver or gold. When investors turned in their silver U.S. Treasury notes for gold dollars, the government’s gold reserves were in danger of depletion. The act was repealed after the Panic of 1893.

Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act (1917)

Provided for basic vocational education by making federal grants to states to encourage training in agriculture, trade, and industry.

Social Security Act (Old-Age Pension Act; 1935)

The act, which originally created a retirement and benefits program for the primary worker, was amended to establish a national social program providing old age and survivor benefits; public assistance to the aged, the blind, and needy children; unemployment insurance; and disability benefits.

Staggers Rail Act (1980)

This act, the first designed to abolish railroad regulations from as far back as 1887, authorized the railway companies to set rail service rates and enter into long-term agreements with their customers. It made it easier for railroads to eliminate unprofitable routes.

Standard Container Act (1928)

Set standard sizes for baskets and containers for fruits and vegetables.

Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (1977)

Established the Office of Surface Mining within the U.S. Department of the Interior to regulate active coal mines and to reclaim abandoned mines.

Synthetic Liquid Fuels Act (1944)

Established the Bureau of Mines and provided it with $30 million to develop technologies for producing synthetic fuel from coal over a five-year period. The program was abolished after forty years of futile work and $8 billion in spending.

Taft-Hartley Act* (Labor-Management Relations Act; 1947)

Restricted the activities and power of labor unions and authorized states to pass right-to-work laws, making union membership an option rather than a requirement for employment.

Tariff of Abominations* (1828)

Aimed at protecting industry in the northern United States from competing European goods, the act increased the prices of European products by creating a tariff on these goods.

Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (1982)

Designed to increase government revenues and intended to curtail perceived abuses and unintended benefits in the tax system, the act increased excise taxes on selected products and services (including tobacco and telephone service) and ensured better compliance with existing tax laws.

Toxic Substances Control Act (1976)

Required chemical manufacturers to give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at least three months’ notice before beginning commercial production of a new chemical or before marketing an existing chemical for a new use. It allowed manufacturers to proceed with their plans if no risks could be identified. The act focused primarily on polychlorinated biphenyl (PBC) products; later amendments applied to asbestos, lead, and radon.

Trade Expansion Act (1962)

Permitted the president to negotiate additional tariff reductions, eliminate or reduce tariffs on items of the European Common Market, reduce tariffs on the basis of reciprocal trade agreements, and grant technical and financial assistance to employers whose business is adversely affected by tariff reduction.

Underwood Tariff Act* (1913)

Reduced import tariff levels and created the federal income tax. The law was initially designed to lower tariffs, but its long-term significance was the manner in which it offset the loss of tariff revenue by creating the federal income tax on individuals.

Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (1936)

Set basic labor standards for work on government contracts exceeding $10,000 in value. Under the provisions of the act, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, employees were to be paid at least the prevailing wage rate and paid time-and-a-half for work in excess of eight hours a day, or forty hours a week, whichever was greater. The act also set standards for child and convict labor and for safe working conditions.

Welfare and Pension Plans Disclosure Act (1958)

Covered all nongovernmental welfare and pension plans affecting more than twenty-five employees. The act required administrators to file annual reports to the secretary of labor describing annual financial statements.

Whiskey Tax* (Whiskey Act; 1791)

Created to pay down the states’ debt from the Revolutionary War that the federal government had assumed, the act was imposed to advance and secure the power of the new government.

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