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US Legislative Materials & Histories: Compiling Your Own History

This guide is designed to help you find federal legislative documents in the Law Library, in the Graduate Library, and through online resources

Compiling Your Own Legislative History

Here are the basic steps to compiling your own legislative history.

     1.   Identify documents relating to your statute or bill. These documents may include the text of bills, committee reports, hearings, debates, and other Congressional documents. (When using the indexes and other sources described in this guide, check the years before and after the year that the law you are researching was passed, or the bill introduced. Sometimes hearings are held and reports are written or published before or after the session in which the law was actually passed.)

     2.   Check for other documents and bill numbers using a subject approach, since hearings and reports are not always linked to a specific law via bill number. (This is because a committee may hold "overview" hearings and then draft the bill after the hearings are concluded. In other instances, the bill or bills that were referred to the committee may be altered substantially in mark-up sessions. In this case, the bill is referred to as a "clean bill" and renumbered; you would then use the new bill number to find related material. Moreover, if a bill does not pass during one session, it may be reintroduced during the next session with a new bill number.)

     3.   If you are looking for documents relating to a bill that was never passed, you can find the bill number and references to hearings, reports, etc. by using a subject approach in any of the general indexes. (The number of a bill that was never enacted may be found in the sources described on the Preliminary Considerations tab.)

See this guide by the Library of Congress for more in-depth guidance.

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