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Tracing Legislative Histories


Legislative History - A compilation of Congressional and other related documents generated in the process of passing a Public Law.

Documents Included in a Legislative History

The Pentagon Library Law Branch Staff compiles histories of those Public Laws, which have a bearing on the mission of the Department of Defense. There is no rigid formula for compiling a legislative history. A compiler is free to include any documentation, which the potential user may find helpful. The Pentagon Library usually includes the first seven items of those listed below.

  1. The Public Law
  2. Digests of the bill or bills from the CRS Digest of Public General Bills and Resolutions.
  3. Committee reports, including the Conference if reported.
  4. Text of the various versions of the bills (original and amended).
  5. House and Senate debates from the Congressional Record.
  6. Committee hearings, prints and documents.
  7. Presidential signing statement.
  8. Executive Department documents.
  9. Related materials (e.g. newspaper and periodical articles).

Sources of Legislative Histories

  1. United States Code Congressional and Administrative News
  2. Annual Legislative History Volume of the Congressional Information Service and the CIS Index (CD-ROM)
  3. Calendars of the US House of Representatives
  4. Statutes at Large & Slip Laws
  5. Congressional Record Index - "History of Bills and Resolutions"
  6. CQ On (on-line database)
  7. LEXIS/NEXIS (on-line database)
  8. WESTLAW - USCCAN (on-line database)
  9. Congressional Index - Commerce Clearing House (77th - 104th Congress)
  10. Congressional Research Service - Digest of Public General Bills and Resolutions (79th - 101st Congress)
  11. Some congressional committees occasionally issue legislative histories of major laws within their jurisdictions (e.g. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, PL 95-454, House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, Committee Print No. 96-7