Bill Drafts - Sometimes bills are drafted outside of Congress by special interest groups or trade
associations and sponsored later by legislators.
Bills - Most bills are introduced in the House but can also come from the Senate.
Different versions of a bill, as it goes from a committee to the House floor then to the Senate floor, are good sources of legislative intent indicating deliberate choices of words.
Congressional Hearings and Committee Prints - Hearings are held on some specific, pending
legislative proposals (one or more related bills or drafts) or as oversight or investigative hearings on general topics to study federal programs or potential government action. These oversight hearings can develop into legislation. Hearings include transcripts of discussion of proposals for new or suggested changes to pending legislation and other testimony of witnesses before a congressional body. Committee prints usually contain statements or research studies by the committee, staff or experts about legislation.
Congressional Committee Reports and Documents - When a bill is approved and amended by its assigned committee, it is printed and reported to the floor of the House or Senate for debate. These reports and documents frequently describe a bill's contents and purposes and give reasons for the committee's recommendations. A committee minority view is sometimes given. Committees issue reports and documents on studies and investigations not related to any particular bill and also publish compiled legislative histories of bills assigned to the committee. Reports are bound as part of a numbered series called the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.
Congressional Debates - Congressional debates, or discussions on pending legislation, take place on the floor of the House or Senate and are printed in the Congressional Record.
Presidential Approval or Veto Messages - Presidential messages accompany
legislation proposed to Congress by the executive and are often issued when the president signs or vetoes a bill.
These often explain the reasons for proposing, signing or vetoing legislation.
Resources: What Documents Are Used To Compile A Federal Legislative History?
Legislative Manuals, Handbooks and Phone Directories
Phone numbers are the best and sometimes only source when legislation is in pre-bill or draft form and difficult to research.
Commercial and government phone directories can be used to locate special interest groups, trade associations or legislators who might be drafting legislation.
Bills, hearings, prints, and reports can be requested by phone from the Clerk of the House or Senate, the legislator who sponsored the bill,
the relevant Congressional committees, or the Government Printing Office (GPO)
Newspapers and Periodicals
Newspaper or magazine articles as well as periodical sources such as the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report are good information sources
which can lead a researcher to tips such as new legislation being introduced, the office of a bill's sponsor or cosponsor.
Legislative manuals, handbooks, and phone directories would then provide phone numbers to contact resource people.
Most bills are introduced in the House but can also come from the Senate.
Different versions of a bill, as it goes from a committee to the House floor then to the Senate floor,
are good sources of legislative intent indicating deliberate choices of words.
Legislative Calendars and Journals
These give the status and history of bills with some subject and title access and also list legislative sponsors.
Dates for any hearings scheduled and presidential messages received are also given.
The public proceedings of each chamber of Congress are published chronologically in the Congressional Record.
Debates about specific legislation are printed verbatim.
Bill Tracking Sources
These sources are finding tools for the progress and history of a bill in the Congressional process.
Legislative calendars and journals give status and history.
The Congressional Record gives a complete status table called "History of Bills and Resolutions,"
which is published at the end of each session, with access by subject, sponsor and bill number.
However, several commercially published sources do this faster and better.
CCH Congressional Index is commercially produced and it lists, summarizes and indexes public bills.
Weekly supplements (the fastest non-database source) are issued while Congress is in session.
CIS/Index is another great source for determining if bills, (or hearings, prints, reports or enacted laws) exist on a topic. The index gives a summary of the contents of a particular document, including title, date, committee, and for hearings, witness testimony information. It is published first in monthly pamphlets which cumulate into bound volumes. It can be used to search for subject, bill number, act number, committee, title, or persons testifying at hearings. This title also has a "Legislative History" volume organized by Public Law number and also accessed through the main index that lists and summarizes all documents relating to the act.
US Code Congressional & Administrative News (USCCAN) The legislative history table for each public law includes the date approved, Statutes At Large cite, bill and report numbers, the committees that recommended the legislation, and the dates of consideration and passage.
Hearings are not held for all legislation and are not always published.
Hearings include transcripts of the testimony of witnesses before a congressional body.
Hearings often include other background information such as letters, statistics, and newspaper articles.
Hearings are held to provide interested parties a forum to express views, to generate publicity,
and to afford an opportunity for witnesses to suggest new legislation or changes existing proposals.
Prints usually contain statements or studies by the committee, staff or experts about legislation.
They often include other background information such as letters, statistics, and newspaper articles.
Congressional Committee Reports and Documents
When a bill is approved and amended by its assigned committee, it is printed and reported to the floor of the House or Senate for debate.
These reports and documents frequently describe a bill's contents and purposes and give reasons for the committee's recommendations.
A committee minority view is sometimes given. Committees issue reports and documents on studies and investigations not related to any
particular bill and also publish compiled legislative histories of bills assigned to the committee. Reports and Documents are published
separately as slip reports and then are bound as part of a numbered series called the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.
The Congressional Record sometimes includes the full text of committee reports submitted for publication in the Record by a legislator.
The Daily Digest section also summarizes action taken within committees.
USCCAN reprints selected congressional committee reports on important acts.
Compiled Legislative Histories
These are published separately for many important laws. Congressional Committees also sometimes publish compiled legislative histories of bills assigned to the committee as committee reports. Commercial publishers sometimes reprint these public domain documents. Commercially published books and journal articles sometimes include the legislative research of an author.
Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories is a resource which indexes all compilations for major laws included in congressional documents, legal periodicals, treatises, and looseleaf services.
USCCAN compiles selected, semi-complete legislative histories. It prints the text of enacted public laws, some presidential messages and selected Congressional committee reports on important acts. It does not reprint hearings.
When your library does not have a source, it can often get needed items through interlibrary loan. Original government documents such as slip bills, hearings, committee prints and reports are often in many other local libraries either in paper or on microfiche, sometimes they are listed in the public catalog and sometimes they are not because they are in a separate government document collection. Non-governmental publishers reprint congressional documents and these are often in other library collections.
The Congressional Record sometimes reprints the full text of presidential messages which legislators submit for inclusion. In the Congressional Calendars and Journals notices of Presidential messages received are listed.
Presidential messages are sometimes printed as House or Senate Documents which are printed in the United States Congressional Serial Set.
Presidential Vetoes, 1789-1988, 1989-1994 is compiled by the Senate Library and arranges vetoed bills by Congress with Senate bills listed first, then House bills.
It lists the bill number and the date it was vetoed, whether the veto was sustained or overridden by Congress and related legislation.
It gives citations to veto messages in the Congressional Record, to House Documents in the United States Congressional Serial Set,
to the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents and to the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report. There is a subject index.
Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States begins with the papers of Herbert Hoover (excluding Franklin Roosevelt) and continues to the present. It is annual and compiles messages to Congress, public speeches, news conferences and public letters.
USCCAN prints presidential messages for some enacted public laws.
Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents compiles addresses, remarks, and messages to Congress as well as appointments, nominations, and other presidential materials.
LEXIS and WESTLAW
Both services include the full text of enacted laws, bills, the Congressional Record, presidential materials,
and other primary sources as well as many commercial sources.
These databases can be used to search full text judicial opinions for discussions of legislation by judges interpreting statutes.
The full text of newspaper and magazine articles are often good sources for legislative sponsors of bills or news of Congressional reports.
LEXIS includes all legislative histories from the CIS/Index from 1970 to the present.
It also includes some full text legislative histories in specialty libraries such as the Federal Tax Library and the Securities Library.
WESTLAW contains committee reports from USCCAN in its Legislative History database.
WESTLAW also has a Congressional testimony database which often provides testimony from hearings which have not yet been published by the Government Printing Office.
The Internet has a wealth of information on legislation and Congress. The Library of Congress, the Government Printing Office and many administrative agencies have information available through Gopher, WAIS or World Wide Web. This information changes so fast that you would do best to ask a librarian or information professional for the latest information.
Summary: How Do I Compile A Legislative History?
Legislative calendars and journals
CCH Congressional Index
CIS/Index - by subject or by bill number
USCCAN (legislative history table)
LEXIS (GENFED, BLTRCK)
compiled legislative histories
reprints of non-government publications
slip bills in libraries
sometimes on microfiche
the Internet (THOMAS) provides full text of all bills from the 103rd Congress to the present
Hearings & Prints
CCH Congressional Index
Legislative Calendars & Journals for dates
library public catalogs
the Clerk of the House or Senate
the specific committee
library card catalogs
United States Serial Set
the specific committee
LEXIS (GENFED, There are several annual files to choose from; consult a database list for the file names)
Text: Same as above
Presidential Vetoes and Messages
Congressional Record (selective)
Congressional Record (selective)
US Congressional Serial Set (selective)
USCCAN (for enacted laws only)
Presidential Vetoes, 1789-1988, 1989-1994
Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States
Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents
CIS/Index - by subject or by Public Law number
USCA Popular Name Table at the end of the index volumes