Finding legislative history, a good skill for Independence Day!

The Law Library wishes everyone a safe and happy Independence Day weekend! I’m sure at some point you will hear or talk about the history of the United States and the Declaration of Independence. Today’s blog is along those same lines. As a law student, legal scholar, attorney, or judge, you may encounter the need to be able to conduct effective legislative history research. What is a legislative history? Legislative histories are the many documents and resources that are a part of a bill as it goes through the legislative process up until it becomes a law.

Legal scholars will often discuss the rationale behind a particular law, attorneys may represent individuals or businesses who may be concerned about the impact of a law, judges will look at the legislative intent when interpreting the meaning of a law, and others may be concerned about the costs related to a law. The information regarding these issues can be found in the legislative history regarding the law. Legislative histories of laws include, bill texts in the bill’s various forms (e.g., as introduced, as reported from committee, with various amendments, as passed), committee reports, floor debates and hearings, and Congressional Research Service Reports (CRS Reports). Presidential signing statements may also be included in legislative histories and can be very informative on the President’s position regarding a law.

The Barry Law Library has electronic databases that students and faculty can use to find legislative histories. These databases can be accessed both on-campus and off-campus. The link to the electronic databases webpage can be found on the Law Library’s homepage. ProQuest Congressional is a database that provides access to United States congressional publications and legislative research in full text dating back to 1970. Prior to 1970, legislative histories can be accessed through the U.S. Serials Set Digital Collection. In addition, to ProQuest Congressional, we also have the ProQuest Legislative Insight database for researching legislative history. HeinOnline is yet another resource for finding legislative history for United States laws. Finally, you can find some legislative history information on LexisNexis or Westlaw as well.

For assistance on using any of the listed databases, please see one of the Reference Librarians—Diana Botluk, Louis Rosen, or Jason Murray. Have a wonderful holiday weekend!


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