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.
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:
- FDSys.gov: United States Statutes at Large 1951 to present
- HeinOnline: U.S. Statutes at Large Library 1789 to present
- Statutes at Large are also available in print on the 1st Floor (1789 – 2011).
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.
Commercial publishers often compile legislative histories for significant pieces of legislation. A few of the more common commercial collections include:
- 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:
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.