A legislative history provides the researcher with the status (i.e., the progress through Congress) of a bill at any given time. It also identifies and, in some cases, compiles the texts of documents that are the result of action taken as a bill goes through each stage of the legislative process. Legislative history material may be useful for researchers trying to determine the legislative intent behind a law.
Legislative history documents usually consist of the following items:
This guide is designed to help you find federal legislative documents in the Law Library, in the Graduate Library, and through online resources. Major sources are briefly described and their locations on campus are provided. Where no indication of the library is given, the call number provided is for the Law Library. More detailed explanations of legislative history research are available in the sources listed on the Legislative History Indexes tab.
Because most researchers are interested in statutes, this guide focuses on enacted statutes rather than on bills that failed to become law or bills currently being considered in Congress. Much of the discussion will also apply to the latter two situations, however.
The following sources contain more detailed discussions on legislative histories:
Miles O. Price et al., Effective Legal Research (4th ed. 1979) Chapters 3, 4, and 5.
Morris L. Cohen et al., How to Find the Law (9th ed. 1989).
Morris L. cohen and Kent C. Olson, Legal Research in a Nutshell, (10th ed. 2010) Chapter 5.
Steven M. Barkan, Roy M. Mersky and Donald J. Dunn, Fundamentals of Legal Research, (9th ed. 2009)
Robert U. Goehlert and Fenton S. Martin, Congress and Law-Making: Researching the Legislative Process, (2nd ed. 1989).
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