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Answered By: Tim McAllister
Last Updated: Jun 15, 2016     Views: 222

For getting started with legislative history – you can Google:  HLS legislative history guide

And select this research guide:

On the first page – on the right – is a list of all the materials to consult for conducting a legislative history.  Use this list and the tabs (in the guide) to find the different legislative documents.  Traditionally, the most important documents are the Committee Reports.

The next thing to do is to Google-Wikipedia your statute.  For federal statutes, Wikipedia provides helpful citation information – like the Public Law and Statute at Large numbers

For example, here is the Wikipedia page for the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989. In Wikipedia, on the right – you’ll note this information:


Public Law  Pub.L. 101–73

Stat.         103 Stat. 183

Use these citations to help guide yourself around.  For the Public Law – the first number (101) represents the Congress that initiated the law, and the second number (73) represents the number law of that session.  It’s a chronological system.

Using the above legislative research guide, I recommend first trying to find Compiled Legislative Histories.

In Hein and Proquest, you can search by Public Law number. Once in Proquest, from the left, select search by number. From this search by number template – you’ll be able to look by Public Law.

Results in Proquest can vary depending on the amount of legislative activity.  You'll note citations to materials, like the Congressional Record and House & Senate reports. 

If Proquest does not provide direct online access to documents, take the citation information and refer to the research guide for alternative databases.  Hein and West, for example, may have the Congressional Record and reports. Finally, sometimes, microfiche may be the only version available. 

Answered by Tim McAllister
Last Updated: Jun 15, 2016     Views: 222