A legislative history enables the researcher to track the progress of a bill through the legislative process and find documents created during the process (for example, committee reports and hearings, sponsor remarks, presidential statements, etc). These documents allow the researcher to learn why Congress enacted a particular law and interpret congressional intent.
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Getting Started With Legislative History
Looking for an already compiled legislative history? Looking to start your own? There are a lot of ways to go about it, but the following resources are great places to begin the process. If you have questions, or would like more advanced training on legislative history, make sure to contact your friendly research librarian for help.
Compiling a federal legislative history may seem daunting, but it does not have to be. There is a possibly less complicated option for finding legislative history documents that we wanted to be sure to highlight — determining whether someone has already done the work for you and created a legislative history report! There are many sources of pre-compiled legislative histories available that you will want to check before compiling your own. These compilations range from finding aids that help you locate a compiled legislative history to monographs that contain the legislative history for one act.
If you were not able to find a pre-compiled legislative history report, now you have to roll up your sleeves and compile your own. To begin, you have to use the information you already have about the legislation of interest to lead you to other important citation information.
Legislative History Research: A Basic Guide
A little more in depth, but a great resource for just starting out. This report provides 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.
The legislative histories include the full text of the Public Law itself, all versions of related bills, law-specific Congressional Record excerpts, committee hearings, reports, and prints. Also included are Presidential signing statements, CRS reports, and miscellaneous congressional publications that provide background material to aid in the understanding of issues related to the making of the law.
Covers a variety of congressional documents from 1789 to the present, including House and Senate reports and documents from 1817, hearings from 1824, committee prints and publications from 1830, CRS reports from 1916, and legislative histories from 1969. Serves as an index to a microfiche legislative history system pre-1969.
U.S. Federal Legislative History Library (Hein)
This library contains more than 2,400 titles published by the Government Printing Office and private publishers. All titles are indexed to the document level and are fully searchable. In addition to legislative history content, this library includes the database version of the award-winning Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories. Utilize this database to determine if a legislative history has been compiled on a public law and also to locate related documents, such as books or scholarly articles. All such material available in HeinOnline is linked and accessible from this database. From the collection homepage, users can also browse a legislative reference checklist or access external resources on compiling federal legislative histories and other various legislative research guides.
U.S. Legislative History Quick Reference Guide (Hein)
An easy to use, quick guide and best ways to search the U.S. Federal Legislative History Library. The guide shows you how to search by popular name, public law number, or congressional session, plus keyword searching.
(Note: For all Westlaw links, you will first be required to login into Westlaw)
All congressional committee reports, including reports on bills that did not become law, beginning with 1990. Also sets out the legislative history of public laws as reprinted in U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) from 1948 through 1989, as well as the legislative history of securities laws beginning with 1933 and presidential signing statements reprinted in USCCAN beginning with 1986."
Congressional Record has the text of the congressional record from 1985 to present."
"Agendas and witness lists for U.S. congressional committee hearings, transcripts of oral statements, and written statements submitted to committees of Congress. Coverage begins with January 1993 and includes increased coverage from January 1996 to present and selected coverage from 1993 to 1996."
Transcripts of news conferences, press briefings, political speeches, and oral testimony from congressional committee hearings. Coverage begins with February 1994."
Full text of bills and resolutions relating to immigration introduced in the U.S. Congress. Coverage begins with the 104th Congress (1995-1996)."
Immigration Legislation Handbook
An analysis of the most significant immigration bills introduced in the past year is provided in an updated Chapter 1. Also, this edition of the Immigration Legislation Handbook reports on a number of important developments in the past year with regard to immigration legislation enacted in recent years. These and other developments with regard to recent immigration legislation are covered in the Handbook with their practical impact in mind.