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About Legislative Histories
A legislative history traces the development of a law from its original consideration to enactment of the statute. It cites a collection of documents that provide the background and actions that lead to the public law. These include bills, hearings, reports, debates, and presidential signing statements. In some cases, you may find a compiled legislative history (see below) , but it is more likely you will need to develop the history through locating lists of citations.
Compiled Legislative Histories-Selected Sources
Choose U.S. Federal Legislative History Library from the Browse Collections by Name list. A very selected list, through the 113th Congress.
U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News
Alexander Library, Government Documents, Stack 26
Usually two volumes per Congress, one of which is a reprint of the Statutes at Large, and the other set is labeled Legislative History. The latter contains lists of citations, selected and sometimes abridged reports, and presidential signing statements. Caution: This resource reprints highlights of the law's history, so it is not comprehensive.
Legislative Histories of Selected U.S. Laws on the Internet
Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C. (LLSDC) collection of links to compilations online.
Lists of Citations-Sources
The most comprehensive resource is Congressional Publications, which includes Legislative Histories from 1969 to the present. The citation lists include bills, prints, hearings, reports, debates, signing statements, and many of these documents can be accessed online directly from the citation.
Congressional Publications (ProQuest)
Select Legislative Histories
from the facets on the left and search by keyword or act name.
To search by public law number, bill number
, etc., go here
If a piece of legislation has taken multiple Congresses to pass, citations from prior sessions will also be listed.
If there is not a link to fulltext for reports and/or hearings listed, try using the resources listed on the Hearings and Report tabs.
CIS Index and Abstracts (1970+)
Located on DOCREF Table 1 provides a print version of the legislative histories above.
Other Lists of Citations Sources
These sources are not comprehensive!
Congress.gov is the official source for federal legislative information, replacing Thomas. On the main page, the default search is for current legislation. You can change the pull-down menu on the left to "All Legislation." Enter your keywords, topic, e.g., "mental health," "child nutrition," etc. On the results page, use the facets on the left to limit your search to specific Congresses and legislation type, e.g., "Status of Legislation."
govinfo: Public Laws/Statutes at Large
104th Congress (1995/96) to present. Can drill down to the public law. The last page of the law has a very brief legislative history.
Available in print, GovDocs, stack 26, historical to present.
govinfo: History of Bills
98th Congress (1983/84) to present.