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Overview/What is Legislative History?
This guide will review the federal legislative process and identify the documents created during the process. It will direct you to indexes, sources of compiled legislative histories and compiled legislative histories, as well as sources of the individual documents. It also will set out the available South Dakota legislative history documents and direct you to their print and online sources.
"Legislative history" refers to both the background and events leading up to the enactment of a law and the collection of documents that legislators create during the legislative process. If the courts have not resolved the meaning of an ambiguous federal statute, the legislative history of the statute may help decide what the legislature intended when it passed the statute.
What information do I need to locate federal legislative history?
What information do I need to find the legislative history of an enacted federal law?
- You will need either the Public Law Number (Pub. L. No.), the Statutes at Large citation (Stat.), or the year of enactment and the bill numbers associated with the enacted law. It is also useful to know the Popular Name of the Federal Act.
How do I find the Public Law Number or the Statutes at Large citation?
If you know the Popular Name of the Act, use the Popular Name Table in a publication of the U.S. Code. This table will contain the Public Law number and the Statutes at Large citation, as well as the Code citation.
If you know the United States Code citation for a specific statute:
Look up the citation in the print United States Code (U.S.C.), United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.), or United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.), or online in Bloomberg Law (U.S.C.), WestlawNext (U.S.C.A.), Lexis Advance (U.S.C.S.), GPO FDsys (U.S.C.) under "Featured Collections," or Thomas (U.S.C.). The Public Law Number and Statutes at Large citation for the statute as enacted will be listed first in the parenthetical notes immediately following the text of the statute.
The statute may have been amended. The Public Law numbers and Statutes at Large Citations for any amendments will follow the original Public Law number and Statutes at Large citation.
- If you know the subject of the federal law, use:
Congress.gov (free): in the Search box, select "All Legislation." Use keywords and narrow results using the facets in the left column or search within results. You also may narrow your results by using field searches.
FDsys (free): "Advanced Search" in one or more Collections (i.e. Congressional Bills)
BloombergLaw (log in required): All Legal Content>U.S.Legislative>U.S.Congress>U.S. House and Senate Bills (1993-current).
WestlawNext (log in required):
Broad search: Legislative History > Advanced Search, using the field boxes or create your own Boolean Search.
Narrow search: Federal Materials> Federal Proposed & Enacted Legislation > Advanced Search.
This guide was orinally created by Marsha K. Stacey. This guide has since been updated by the staff of the McKusick Law Library.