George Taoultsides

A Legislative History is the official documentary record of the passage of a proposed statute.

Determine congressional intent
 Courts
 DOMA (104 H. Rpt. 664)- “This judgment entails both moral disapproval of homosexuality, and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality.”

Bill tracking

◦ Special interests

House and Senate Bills:  110 H.R. 1; 113 Senate S. 1,

Committee Reports

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Committee Hearings Committee Prints Floor Debates Presidential Documents

◦ 104 H. Rpt. 209; 104 S. Rpt. 200

At the federal level:

◦ Commences with the introduction of a bill or joint resolution in Congress by a Senator or Representative and ◦ It concludes with a Presidential signing into law or veto.


Joint resolution

◦ Public or Private

Concurrent resolution Simple resolution

◦ Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States limiting the number of times a congress person can serve. 113 H.J. Res. 37 ◦ Expressing the sense of Congress that a commemorative postage stamp should be issued in honor of George Thomas ``Mickey'' Leland. 113 H. Con. Res. 2 ◦ Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to require that any extension of the public debt limit only be considered in a standalone bill. 113 H. RES. 19

Every piece of legislation begins either in the House or Senate as either a bill or a joint resolution.
Bill: 100 H.R. 426 or 100 S. 422 Joint Resolution: 92 H.J. Res. 300 or 87 S.J. Res. 44

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◦ Proquest Congressional – (1789-present (not fully available until Dec. 2013)  ◦ FDSYS – (1993 – Present (Free))  ( ◦ American memory – (1799 – 1873 (Free))  (

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It is assigned to at least one committee. Most bills die in committee. The Healthcare Reform Act was referred to five committees.

Committee Hearings

◦ Essentially two types of hearings: ◦ Interested persons and experts ◦ Transcripts include:

 Investigative  Informative in relation to a specific bill

◦ Transcripts are not always provided ◦ Committees don’t always hold hearings ◦ Proquest Congressional and in microfiche

 Questions posed by committee members  Answers provided by witnesses  Statements and exhibits by interested parties

Committee Prints

◦ Special studies about specific subjects prepared for the use and reference of congressional committees. ◦ Publications vary, examples:
    Congressional Research Service Reports Bibliographies Analyses of similar bills on a subject Excerpts from hearings

◦ GPOAccess ◦ Proquest Congressional

Committee Prints
 The CRS

◦ Congressional Research Service (CRS)
 Provides detailed reports  Not automatically released  Ask your legislator
 Public policy research

◦ Proquest Congressional ◦

Committee Reports

◦ If passed by committee, reports include:

◦ ◦ ◦ ◦

Archive of Americana/Newsbank (1817 - 1983) LexisNexis (1990 - present Westlaw (1990 - present) Proquest (1970 – present)

 Revised text of bill, if any changes  Analysis and intent of proposed legislation  Rationale behind committee’s recommendation

Once a bill passes through committee it goes to the floor of the House or Senate. The comments made by legislators on the floors can be found in the Congressional Record. The Congressional Record began publication in 1873.
Congressional Globe: 1833 – 1873 Register of Debates: 1824 – 1837 Annals of Congress: 1789 - 1824 HeinOnline –

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◦ Look under U.S. Congressional Documents

It goes to the president to be signed or vetoed. Potential documents:
◦ Presidential messages or reports ◦ Federal agency documents ◦ Signing statements or veto messages

Where to look:

◦ Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents ◦ Public Papers of the President ◦ GPOAccess and Heinonline

Compiling a legislative history is time consuming Look for a compiled legislative history

◦ HeinOnline – Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories (citations only) ◦ Proquest Congressional (1970-present, selected full-text) ◦


Time to get your hands dirty: ◦ United States Statutes at Large, (Heinonline)  There is a legislative summary at the end of each law. ◦ United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN), (Westlaw) ◦ Congressional Record: History of Bills and Resolutions, (GPOAccess) ◦ CCH Congressional Index, (Print)

 Provides legislative history tables for bills that have become laws.

 It’s part of the annual index to the bound set of the Congressional Record.  Reference KF 49 .C6 - Beginning with the 75th Congress (1937-38).

Let’s say that a partner at the firm that you are working at asks you to compile a legislative history for him on the 1976 Copyright Act. And let’s say he gives you a section of the U.S. Code: 17 U.S.C. 402(d). Where would you begin?
◦ Find the public law or the original bill number

In Westlaw, enter the citation for the code section.

Scroll down to the end of the bill and look for the credits.


are two laws that have affected this section of the Code. We need to compile a legislative history for both of these laws.

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94th Congress 533rd bill passed by this Congress I would start in either: ◦ Proquest Congressional

◦ Heinonline U.S. Federal Legislative History Library


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Find the public law number or bill number Try to find a compiled legislative history Gather full-text documents If you still have questions contact your firm’s librarian. or Email me anytime:

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