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Legislative History - Federal: Home

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Basic Information

Legislative history is the process of following a bill through its life in Congress and analyzing the documents associated with that bill which are created during the process. Legislative history may be done on bills that are enacted into law and those that are not. The documents that are part of a legislative history are often consulted in the hope that the intent of Congress may be determined and thus aid in the interpretation of a law.

The main components of a legislative history usually include:

  • Committee Reports
  • Various versions of the bill and amendments made to them
  • Remarks on the floor of the House and Senate chambers reported in the Congressional Record
  • Committee Hearings

Other types of Congressional publications that are often included in Legislative history compilations are House and Senate Documents and Committee Prints.

Starting point of legislative history is a public law number or a code citation.  If you are not certain of either, visit the MLIC Reference desk to get help in establishing a starting point.

Federal Legislative History Research: Practitioner's Guide to Compiling the Documents and Sifting for Legislative Intent, by Richard J. McKinney and Ellen A. Sweet. Published by the Law Librarian's Society of Washington, D.C. Last Revised 1/200.  This is a guide to how to do legislative history, very detailed and directed to the user with some experience in legislative research. This guide is written by librarians in Washington, D.C. law firms and government positions who are experts in compiling legislative histories from scratch in paper and electronic formats.

Legislative History Research: A Basic Guide by Julia Taylor. Congressional Research report with an overview of federal legislative history research, the legislative process, and where to find congressional documents. The report also summarizes some of the reasons researchers are interested in legislative history, briefly describes the actions a piece of legislation might undergo during the legislative process, and provides a list of easily accessible print and electronic resources.

    Legislative Process

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