Why Do A Legislative History?


Carla Pritchett
Tulane Law Library

Introduction: What Is A Legislative History?

A legislative history is research into the history of a bill often beginning before the bill is introduced in the legislature and ending when it is either passed into law or is tabled or vetoed. Most bills never get passed. A legislative history includes documents from every step of the law-making process. These documents have a bewildering array of names that are often used interchangeably


  1. Bill: a proposed act or law drafted by a legislative body. Bills are usually numbered consecutively as they are introduced.

  2. Amendments: a bill often amends an existing act. Sometimes a bill is referred to as an amendment and an act is also referred to as an amendment when it amends an earlier act.

  3. Act: a bill which has passed or been enacted is called an act and is usually first published in chronological order and is numbered consecutively.

  4. Statute: usually an act, after being published chronologically, is organized by subject and then called a statute. The term "code" is also used this way.
    Sometimes enacted bills in chronological order are also called statutes.

  5. Code: usually a subject arrangement of laws which have been previously published chronologically. Subject arrangements of Administrative Regulations are also called codes.

  6. Law: the word law is used to refer to cases, statutes, acts, regulations, ordinances, etc.

Purposes: Why Do A Legislative History?

United States Legislative History
United States Administrative & Legislative Information Sources
Louisiana Legislative History
State Administrative & Legislative Information Sources

Legislative History
August 2008