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Federal Legislative History Research

Introduction

Legislative history refers to the events and documentation surrounding the consideration and enactment of a particular legislative bill. Legislative history research consists of looking for this documentation, which can often be helpful in shedding light on the meaning or intent of a particular piece of legislation or of specific language contained within that legislation. The most important documents for determining legislative intent are bill texts and committee reports. Other documents, such as transcripts of hearings and debates as well as Presidential statements, may also be relevant.

This guide focuses on federal legislative history and the documents produced by Congress, the federal legislature made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. One can also do legislative history research on state bills and laws, although the resources are not usually as readily available. For guidance on doing this type of research for California legislation, consult the USC Law Library guide California Legislative History Research.