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Legislative History - Federal and State

Compiling a Legislative History

If a precompiled legislative history does not exist, determine what Congressional documents are relevant to your research goal, gather, read and analyze them.  

ProQuest Congressional, Legislative Insight, HeinOnline, and Westlaw gather documents related to a law for you.

For laws as of 1993, however, the free government databases, like govinfo.gov and Congress.gov, also provide excellent access and bill tracking capability.  

Guides to Compiling Legislative Histories

 

 

Locating Documents

With a citation to a law, locate the full-text of all legislative documents affiliated with it. 

This table shows the documents most commonly sought during legislative history research and various sources where they can be found.  

Type of Document & Example Citations

Sources / Publisher

Bills (S. 2550, 82nd Cong.)

Resolutions (H. Res. 2550, 82nd Cong.)

Committee Hearings

(Removal of Criminal and Illegal Aliens, Subcom. on Immigration and Claims, House Committee on Judiciary (Sept. 5, 1996))

Committee Prints

(Staff of H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 95th Cong., Impact of S. 1437 Upon Present Federal Criminal Laws (Comm. Print 1978)

 

Committee Report (S. Rep. No. 104-249)

Debates

(113 Cong. Rec. H915 (daily ed. Feb. 2, 1967))

Congressional Record, available in Congressional Record, available:

Presidential Signing Statements

Congressional Record

CRS Reports

Congressional Documents (H. Doc. No. 104-68)

Free Databases

Print Sources of Legislative Documents

When documents are not available electronically, look at Biddle's catalog for print versions.  Search for individual reports or hearings by name to locate a copy in Biddle's holdings.

  • Commerce Clearing House (CCH) Congressional Index.  To locate the legislative history of a particular bill, consult the status tables in these volumes, which are organized by chamber and bill number. Coverage begins in 1939. This is an especially useful resource for researching bills that were not passed into law.

 

  • Congressional Information Services (CIS) AnnualIndexes and abstracts for documents published by Congress.  It is useful for locating documents published in the Serial Set and is also available electronically through ProQuest Congressional.
    • CIS Microfiche collection is useful for locating full-text legislative documents. Using either ProQuest Congressional or the print volumes of the CIS Abstracts, locate the abstract for the legislative document you would like to see. A CIS accession number is attached to each individual document. You can use this accession number to locate the corresponding fiche in Biddle's collection to view the full text.

 

 

  • United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN).  The legislative history volumes in USCCAN provide dates of passage and consideration, citations to committee and conference reports, and presidential signing statements affiliated with a passed law.  Full text for some documents are provided. The legislative history tables in USCCAN are also a valuable resource for quickly identifying the House and Senate report citations and dates of passage.  Citations provided may not be comprehensive and that other reports and materials might exist for the law you are researching.  Also available on Westlaw [USCCAN]. 

 

  • Statutes at Large, also available on Lexis, Westlaw, HeinOnline, and govinfo.gov.  Find selected legislative history after the text of the law. This list of legislative history documents is not comprehensive.