Skip to main content

Federal Legislative History Research Guide: Compiled Legislative Histories

Resources and process for locating the legislative history of a federal law.

Compiled Legislative Histories

The best way to start federal legislative history research is to determine whether someone else has already compiled and published a legislative history. The sources below may guide you to publications that include full text documents, or to a list of all available documents about the law. To locate a compiled legislative history, check the following sources:

U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN)
To quickly locate the most important history documents for legislative acts from 1941 through the present, you can find the law and selected history documents in US Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN),  [KF48 - 4th Floor Stacks].
USCCAN is also available on Westlaw. From 1948-1989, the database reproduces the print version of USCCAN. From 1990, the database contains the full text of all congressional committee reports, including reports on bills that did not become law.

Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories, by Nancy P. Johnson
[KF42.2.J55 - Reference Desk]
Also available through the U.S. Federal Legislative History Library on HeinOnline which contains links to selected full-text documents.

Legislative Histories: An Annotated Bibliography and Index to Officially Published Sources, by Bernard Reams
[KF42.2 R42 1994 5th Floor Stacks]

Legislative Histories Indexed Guide, published by Information Handling Services
KF42.22 1977 - Reference Desk]

CIS Annual  (Annual Legislative Histories, 1970 -2006)
[KF49 .C62 - Micrographics Room]
This print index includes complete legislative histories with references to the full-text documents available in the Library's CIS microfiche collection.   You may want to consult a Reference Librarians regarding use of the index.  From the 91st to 98th Congresses (1970 - 1983) legislative histories are found at the end of the Abstracts volume. Beginning in 1984, an Annual Legislative History volume lists histories by public law number. Each history contains an abstract of the public law and full bibliographic citations to relevant documents.

ProQuest Legislative Insight (access: restricted to Hastings students, faculty, and staff) compiles legislative histories of bills. Includes bills, public laws, reports, committee prints, hearings, CRS publications, presidential signing statements and other documents. By the end of 2012, this database will include 18,000 legislative histories from 1929 to present.

ProQuest Congressional (access: restricted to Hastings students, faculty, and staff) offers compiled legislative histories for all federal acts since the 91st Congress (1969-1970), with links to the full-text of many of the legislative documents. This service also offers indexing for pre-1970 legislative documents.

HeinOnline (access: restricted to Hastings students, faculty, and staff) has selected legislative histories available in a full-text, fully searchable format. Click on the U.S. Federal Legislative History Library.

Lexis
CIS Legislative Histories from 1970 through current (abstracted documents only) are available in the file CNGRED;CISLH.
Selectively compiled legislative histories are also available and can be found by browsing the online directory in Federal Legal - US and then clicking on Legislative Histories & Materials.

Westlaw
You can search the US GAO Federal Legislative Histories (FED-LH), which includes comprehensive legislative histories for most U.S. Public Laws enacted from 1915 to 1995 (rolling release), as compiled by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. It includes the text of laws, bills, committee reports, Congressional Record documents, transcripts of hearings, and other documents in .pdf format. If you are looking at a statute, there is a link on the left to the related hearings and reports.
Westlaw also offers the Arnold & Porter Collection of legislative histories. These can be located by browsing the online directory in US Federal Materials and then clicking on Arnold & Porter Collection - Legislative Histories.
U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCAAN) is also available ( LH). From 1948-1989, the database is the same as the print version of USCCAN. From 1990, the database contains the full text of all congressional committee reports, including reports on bills that did not become law.

Legislative Sourcebook
The Department of Commerce Law Library has a limited number of legislative histories available online, from the Antidumping Law of 1921 to the 1976 Copyright Act Revisions. For a full listing of the histories, and links to the online documents, go to the Law Librarian's Society of Washington D.C.'s Legislative Sourcebook. Click on "Legislative Histories of Selected U.S. Laws on the Internet". You can search by popular name or public law number.

Encore or Classic Catalog
Legislative Histories individually compiled may also be found in print and on microfiche by searching the Library's Encore or Classic Catalog.  Use the  keywords search option to search for keywords from the title of the act.  For example: searching "Americans disabilities legislative" will bring up the call number for a book containing the full text of all the legislative history documents relating