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Legislative History  

Last Updated: Jun 23, 2015 URL: http://guide.library.law.emory.edu/legislative_history Print Guide RSS Updates

Compiled Legislative History Print Page
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About Compiled Legislative Histories

Previously compiled legislative histories are generally available for major legislation in recent decades and can vary in completeness and complexity.  They are harder to find for older legislations and for recently passed laws, however, if they do exist, they can be a goldmine of information.

 

Congressional Sources

When a law is passed and published as a Slip Law and in the Statutes at Large, brief legislative history information is included at the end of the statute.  WestlawNext and LexisAdvance include this information at the end of the document when retrieved by Public Law number or the Statute at Large citation. 

PDF versions of the Statutes at Large:

The United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) is published by West and contains certain collections of congressional and administrative materials from 1948 to present.  USCCAN Legislative Histories may include:

  • Selected reports and presidential statements
  • Citations to other reports and Congressional Record dates of interest
  • Tables of Public Laws, Statutes at Large citations, and legislative histories
  • Locations of updated reports

USCCAN is available:

  • USCCAN in print on the 3rd Floor, 1941 - 2011
  • WestlawNext: USCCAN, 1990 - present

The “Legislation” link of Congress.gov provides legislative metadata and full text documents for every legislative measure introduced into the U.S. Congress since 1973.  These “bill records” include a brief summary of the measure’s legislative history and may also include the text, any actions taken, titles, amendments, cosponsors, committees, and links to any related bills.

The Department of Justice has assembled and digitized a handful of compiled Legislative Histories on their website, www.justice.gov.

 

Commercial Sources

Commercial publishers often compile legislative histories for significant pieces of legislation.  A few of the more common commercial collections include:

  • WestlawNext:
  • HeinOnline:
    • U.S. Federal Legislative History Title Collection
    • Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories Database
    • Legislative Reference Checklist
    • Congressional Record Daily: Histories of Bills and Resolutions (See “Index” volumes)
    • Subject Specific Legislative Histories:
      • U.S. International Trade Library
      • Tax & Economic Reform in America
      • History of Bankruptcy
      • Immigration Law & Policy in the U.S.

  • ProQuest Congressional:
    • Legislative Histories 1969-Present (via “Advanced Search”)

  • CQ Political Reference Suite:
    • CQ Almanac
      • Offers narrative accounts of every major piece of legislation that lawmakers considered during a congressional session.

    • CQ Congress Collection
      • Includes information and tools to help analyze the “history and development of legislation, powers, and personalities of the U.S. Congress.”

 

Alternative Sources

Don’t forget about Law Review articles.  If someone has already written about a major piece of legislation, the footnotes of the law review article can hold several key citations to valuable legislative history documents.  Use LegalTrac to search law review articles published since 1980.  Articles found in WestlawNext, LexisAdvance, and LegalTrac (which sometimes provides the abstract only) are readily available in PDF format in HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library.

The Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, DC (www.llsdc.org) maintains a Legislative Source Book containing a broad array of legislative history research information, tips, and tricks as well as complied legislative histories available from commercial and free sources.

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