This is the "Introduction" page of the "Federal Legislative History" guide.
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Federal Legislative History   Tags: federal research, legislative history  

Find an already-compiled legislative history, or collect the documents to compile your own history.
Last Updated: Jun 29, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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What is a Legislative History? How Do I Get Started?

A legislative history is an examination of the documents created during the process by which a bill becomes law, and is sometimes used by courts to find legislative intent if a statute is vague or ambiguous.

The best way to begin is to see if someone has already compiled a legislative history by bringing together all of the documents or has at least listed and cited to the relevant documents. For more detail, see the Finding Compiled Histories section of this guide.

If there is no existing compiled history, you can start from scratch and find the documents on your own. For more detail, see the Finding Congressional Documents section of this guide.

Quick Links to Key Web Sites

These are among the best web sites for finding Congressional documents and related legislative history information.

(Note that for some, access is restricted to the USF community.)

  • Federal Digital System (FDsys) - Government Printing Office
    Includes: Congressional bills, hearings and reports; public and private laws; committee prints; The Congressional Record; and more. From the U.S. Government Printing Office. Coverage generally begins in the mid-1990s.
  • - Library of Congress
    Free legislative information and documents (including bills, Public Laws, and committee reports) from the Library of Congress.
  • ProQuest Legislative Insight
    Compiled legislative histories for enacted laws, including (as searchable PDFs): the Public Law text; all versions of enacted & related bills; Congressional Record excerpts; and committee hearings; reports; and documents. Also included: committee prints; Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports; misc. congressional publications; Presidential signing statements. See the Quick Start Guide for more. Coverage begins with 1789. [On-campus alternative: ProQuest Legislative Insight (on-campus link)]
  • ProQuest Congressional
    Congressional reports, hearings, committee prints, and documents, plus Congressional Research Service reports. Covers both enacted laws and non-enacted legislation. (For the USF Community.)
  • GovTrak
    for tracking legislation, votes, and campaign contributions
  • United States Federal Legislative History Library - HeinOnline
    Compiled histories of major legislation, plus Nancy Johnson's Sources of Compiled Legislative History, which organizes links and citations to legislative histories by Congress/date and by popular name. [For the USF Community.]

More Advice on Doing Legislative Histories

These sites have lots of good tips and advice on doing federal legislative histories.

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