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U.S. Legislation and Regulations: Legislative Histories

A guide to public policy resources.

About Legislative Histories

A legislative history is the study of the progress of a bill through the legislative process from its introduction to final passage. The examination of documents that are produced by Congress during the process of enacting a law is often referred to as tracing or compiling a legislative history. Reviewing the primary documents created during the process helps to determine the problem or issue Congress was addressing and the intent of Congress when it passed the bill or created the program.

A Compiled Legislative History includes all the documents from current or previous congressional sessions relevant to the law's development and passage. These include bills or resolutions, 
committee documents such as reports and hearings, and Presidential statements about the legislation.

Sources for Legislative Histories

Finding Legislative Histories of Public Laws and Supporting Documents

ProQuest Legislative Insight 1929-
This database provides complete legislative histories compilations from 1929  of documents created by Congress during the process of enacting public laws. Includes bill histories with a chronological listing of activity for the bill.
All legislative histories from 1945 forward contain hypertext links to congressional publications where available.
Use Guided Search or the Search By Number if you have the citation (e.g. P.L.107-109) to find particular documents.

ProQuest Congressional 1789-
Access to congressional publications on a wide variety of topics. Also includes legislative histories 1970-current.
Go to 'advanced search'

     1. Deselect all, then select "Legislative Histories" from the list. 
     2. Keyword search, or enter the name of a law e.g. no child left behind
     3. Important to note - the system defaults to 'any Congress' and 'all applicable dates' -
         change to specific congress or years to narrow search.
     4. Click on the title to get the full legislative history.

Note: References to previously enacted laws are not included in the legislative history of a current law. Legislative Histories include references to:
Related Bills when different from the enacted bill. The Congressional Record links to full text of documents when available.

Select "U.S. Federal Legislative History Library"
Two collections. Use the search function (upper left).     

LLSDC's Legislative SourcebookLaw Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.
Compilations of legislative resources.

Federal Legislative History Research - Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.
A guide to compiling legislative history.