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Federal Legislative History: Start

Beginning Your Legislative History Research


Your legislative research will be much easier if you locate as much as possible of the following information for each act:

  1. its Public Law number (or chapter number for laws passed before 1957);
  2. its location in the U.S. Statutes at Large;
  3. the date of enactment;
  4. the number of the House or Senate bill and Congress that was enacted.

Your online searching will be more precise if you use them; you will retrieve less irrelevant material.

Legislative History Steps

Step One

Find the public law number or citation to its publication in the U.S. Statutes at Large (Pub.L. 107-147, 116 Stat.21).

Find from 

  1. U.S. Code Section, statutory history (in parentheses below section text) or 
  2. U.S. Code, Popular Names table; or 
  3. Title search of the act (public law) in the databases listed below

Step Two

Find the bill number and Congress (H.R.3090 or S.211 from the 107th Congress

Find From:

Public Law in the databases listed below

What Is a Legislative History?

A legislative  history is a compilation of documents produced at each stage of the legislative (congressional) process.

How Is a Legislative History Used?

Legislative history documents may be used:

To aid a court in its interpretation of statutes, but only if:

  • The statutory language is unclear on its face;
  • No statutory canons exist to guide the court in its interpretation; and
  • There are no existing judicial or federal agency interpretations of the statutory language


to track a pending bill as it moves through Congress.

Finding Legislative History using ProQuest Congressional

Helpful Titles

CALI Legislative History Research Instruction (Lessons)