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Federal Legislative History Research

How to perform federal legislative history research.

What Are Compilations?

A compiled legislative history is a collection of documents related to the passage of a law, saving you the time and effort of gathering these documents yourself. Don't reinvent the wheel. If you are looking for a law's legislative history, see if one has already been compiled. You might still wish to locate a list of citations for comparison's sake.

Please note, access to certain databases linked in this guide may be restricted to UT Law or the UT community; please see the library's Databases page that lays out access privileges.

Compiled Legislative Histories

Example from the online version of Johnson's Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories

Entry for No Child Left Behind Act on HeinOnline.

Image from HeinOnline.

A Word About . . .USCCAN

U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) is a unique resource published by West, available on Westlaw. It offers two sets of volumes per Congress: one set is a reprint of the Statutes at Large and the other set is labeled "Legislative History," containing lists of citations, selected, abridged reports, and presidential signing statements.

Thus USCCAN has characteristics of both a compilation and a list of citations. However, because it reprints only highlights from a law's legislative history, it is not a comprehensive source as either a compilation or a list. Still, it can be quite convenient to use--you will find references to the relevant portion of USCCAN listed section by section in the USCA. And because it focuses on the highlights, it can be a good first source to check.

A Word About . . .Westlaw

Westlaw's "Graphical Statutes" and "Legislative History" Features

In addition to compiled legislative histories, Westlaw offers two features that are integrated into the search results from the U.S.C.A. or Public Laws databases. (The Graphical Statutes feature is noteworthy in that it offers a visual timeline of the changes to a section of the Code.) Keep in mind, however, that it is still worthwhile to seek out a full compiled history or a list of citations for comparison. Also, the links to testimony provided are unofficial transcripts of hearings, not the final, official versions that are published later.

  • Legislative history materials, such as bill drafts, reports, testimony (rather than official hearings), the Congressional Record, signing statements, and USSCAN
  • 104th Congress (1996) to date