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TimeSaver: Federal Legislative History: Introduction

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Federal Legislative History

What is Legislative History?

Because a legislative history can be defined as a chronology of legislative actions, a bibliographic list of documents, or just the information needed to answer a particular question of legislative intent, first determine the type of legislative history you need before drawing up a research plan. The complete legislative history of a federal statute consists of all of the documents created during the legislative process leading up to the enactment of that statute such as various versions of the bills in the House and Senate, Congressional committee hearings, Congressional committee reports, transcripts of legislative debate, and any Presidential statements.

As researching legislative history can be confusing due to the variety of available resources, please do not hesitate to ask the Librarian on duty at the Reference Desk for assistance.

Getting Started: Information About Your Law

Before searching for legislative documents, it is useful to have as much information as possible about your law: the full title or popular name of the law, its bill number (e.g. H.R.1) and public law number (e.g. PL100-1), its title and section in the U.S. Code (e.g. 20 U.S.C. § 20), or its volume and page number in the U.S. Statutes at Large (e.g. 100 Stat. 1). This information, particularly the Public Law number, will enable you to more easily locate legislative documents.

If you know:  Popular name

  • Then: Consult popular name index in U.S.C.A., U.S.C.S., or U.S.C.
  • To find:  Public Law number, Statutes at Large cite, U.S. Code title and section, date of passage

If you knowU.S. Code cite

  • Then:  Consult the notes following the text of the act
  • To find:  Public Law number, Statutes at Large cite, date of passage

If you knowStatutes at Large cite

  • Then:  Consult the appropriate volume and page of text
  • To find:  Title of the act, bill number, Public Law number, date of passage, title and section of U.S. Code

Guide Creator

RWU Law Reference Staff

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