This is the "What is Legislative History?" page of the "United States Legislative History" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

United States Legislative History   Tags: federal, legislative history  

Last Updated: Nov 12, 2014 URL: http://lawlib.buffalo.libguides.com/content.php?pid=203936 Print Guide RSS Updates

What is Legislative History? Print Page
  Search: 
 
 

Page Contents

  • Definition of Legislative History
  • Types of Sources
  • Locating the Sources
  • The Statute
  • Bills & Amendments
  • Committee Hearings
  • Committee Reports
  • Conference Reports
  • Congressional Debates
  • Presidential Messages
  • Collected Legislative Histories
  • Other Research Guides - Federal Legislative History

     

    US LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: LEGISLATIVE DOCUMENTS

    What is legislative history?

    Legislative History refers to the documents generated by Congress during the passage of a statute. Legislative history is often used by litigants and courts to help ascertain the meaning of a statute.

    For a description of the Federal legislative process, see:
    Enactment of a Law by U.S. Senate Parliamentarian Robert Dove http://thomas.loc.gov/home/enactment/enactlawtoc.html
    How Our Laws Are Made by U.S. House of Representatives Parliamentarian Charles Johnson  http://www.thomas.gov/home/lawsmade.toc.html

    What documents comprise legislative history?

    The Statute - Often overlooked, the text of the statute as passed is the best evidence of legislative intent.

    Bills and Amendments - Versions of the bill, as introduced, and as amended during the Congress consideration.

    Committee Hearings - A bill typically will be referred to a House and/or Senate committee. The committee may hold hearings on the bill. Sometimes Congressional committees hold hearings on issues prior to drafting legislation. Hearings are useful for identifying competing views, but typically carry less w eight than rep orts as evidence of legislative intent.

    Committee Reports - Whenever a bill is voted out of committee, it goes to the floor for full debate. The bill is then accompanied by a committee report. Committee reports are generally considered very good indicators of Congressional intent.

    Congressional Debates - All members of the House or Senate can participate in the floor debate. These debates, proposed amendments and floor votes are recorded in the Congressional Record.

    Conference Reports - When bills passed by the Senate and House differ substantively, a Conference Committee, comprised of members of both houses will try to work out a compromise version. The Conference Report explains the changes made by this committee.

    Presidential Messages - Presidential messages can include signing statements, when the president approves legislation or veto messages, when (s)he vetos a bill. Also, the president sometimes sends a message in support of legislation that (s)he proposes to Congress.

    Sources for legislative history documents (Federal)

    STATUTES

    BILLS & AMENDMENTS

    COMMITTEE HEARINGS  

    You can also search by the hearing title in the UB Online Catalog.

    COMMITTEE REPORTS

    You can also search by report title in the UB Online Catalog.

    CONFERENCE REPORTS

    • Conference Committee Reports are available as part of each of the collections listed under Committee Reports above.

    CONGRESSIONAL DEBATES

    The Law Library has a print version of the Congressional Record from its inception in 1874 its predecessors, the Register of Debates (1824-1837) and the Congressional Globe (1833-1973) on the 6th floor.  Also available via:

     PRESIDENTIAL MESSAGES 

     COLLECTED LEGISLATIVE HISTORIES

     

    Need help?

    Profile Image
    Law Reference Librarians
    Contact Info
    (716) 645-2047
     

    Charles B. Sears Law Library • O'Brian Hall • North Campus • Buffalo, NY 14260 • ph:716-645-2047
    Description

    Loading  Loading...

    Tip