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This Guide Includes:
* Background Information
* A step-by-step guide
* Finding California legislative history on the Internet
* Finding California legislative history on LEXIS and WESTLAW
* Additional Sources
Realize Before You Start That:
* This may be frustrating; you might not find anything: allow at least
an hour for a basic search.
* California legislative history is scattered in various sets of books,
microfiche, and online sources.
* Typically, it is difficult to locate legislative history documents for
legislation passed before 1980.
After a law is passed, questions often arise about the meaning of the
legislation. In order to determine how a law is to be interpreted, the
courts and the legal community are left to determine the intent of the
legislature when they passed the law. To determine legislative intent, it
may be necessary to compile a legislative history of a law. While this can
be very useful in determining intent, it can also be very frustrating
because of the lack of published hearings and the cursory nature of many of
the published legislative reports and bill summaries.
Many large law librarys, especially ones at the bigger law schools, have a
good collection of the published CA documents which can be used to compile
the legislative history of a CA Law. In addition, many recent legislative
history documents are available free at the official internet site for CA
legislative information (leginfo.public.ca.gov), and many documents are
available from online databases such as LEXIS and WESTLAW.
Basic Legislative History Search: A Step-By-Step Guide
1. Look at the Law in the Annotated Codes
Find and note the session law chapter numbers. (e.g. Stats 1978 ch 458 1.)
West's Annotated CA Codes and Deering's CA Codes Annotated provide the
current version of the law, a list of all of the amendments to the law, and
the session law chapter numbers. (E.g. Added Stats 1978 ch 458 1. Amended
Stats 1984 ch 334 1). The annotated codes may also provide references to
interim hearings, committee reports, legislative counsel opinions, law
revision commission reports, attorney general opinions, the CA Code of
Regulations, law review articles, and notes of court decisions.
Be sure to check the pocket part or pamphlet for the most recent
amendments, law review articles, court decisions, and other legislative
Note: West's Annotated CA Codes includes the bill number after the
text of the code section, for laws passed after 1994.
LEXIS: Deering's CA Codes Annotated can be searched in CAL;CACODE.
WESTLAW: West's Annotated CA Codes are available in the CA-ST-ANN
2. Look at the Uncodified Law in the California Session Laws
Find and note the bill number and year. (E.g. AB 2797 (1978) or SB 2221
California session laws are published in Statutes and Amendments to the
Codes. From 1993 through current, the Statutes and Amendments to the Codes
are available on the Internet at leginfo.public.ca.gov/statute.html. This
uncodified version of the law may contain an urgency statement or some
other message of intent that may be excluded when codified.
The Summary Digest is a good place to locate the bill number, a summary of
the bill's text, and its effective date. Beginning in 1968, the Summary
Digest for each year is also available in the last volume of the Statutes
and Amendments to the Codes.
3. Look at the Bill
Studying the bill in all its versions is one of the best sources of
legislative intent. Additions and deletions are indicated by italics and
strikeout type. The text of each version is preceded by a Legislative
Counsel's Digest which summarizes changes. Some bills include a statement
of intent or policy which is omitted in the codified version.
CA legislative bills from 1867-current are available in hard copy and
microfiche versions. CA bills from 1993 to date are also available on the
Internet at leginfo.public.ca.gov/bilinfo.html.
4. Read Committee Analyses and Assembly File Analyses
Committee Analyses: These analyses are written by the staff of the
committees of the CA State legislature; they summarize the activity taken
on the bill in the committee and often include information about the bill's
intent. They are available for legislation from 1991 through current on
LEXIS [LEGIS;CACOMM] and WESTLAW [Databases: CCA & CCA-OLD].
Assembly File Analyses: These analyses were prepared by the Assembly Office
of Research for both Senate and Assembly Bills from 1975 through the
1997/98 legislative session (then the office was closed). Each analysis
includes information on committee actions, the proposed fiscal effect of
the bill, a short digest, a summary of comments by committee consultants,
and an assessment of the effect of the bill.
5. Analyze the Assembly and Senate Journals
Look at the indexes to the Journal of the Assembly and the Journal of the
Senate for the year the bill passed. The index is usually in the last
volume of the Journal for each year. (Some of the Journals do not have
indexes; these can be accessed by looking at the Final History or Calendar
volumes mentioned in item #6 below.)
The Bill Action Index lists all of the page numbers in the Journals where
the bill is mentioned.
The Alphabetical Index lists other legislative history documents included
in the Journals. Look in the index for "Legislative Counsel Opinions" and
The Assembly and Senate Journals contain committee and floor roll call
votes, Governor's veto messages, legislators letters of intent, and
Legislative Counsel's Opinions if printed. While only a few legislative
counsel opinions are reprinted each year, they can be very valuable.
Other items included in the Journals may not be helpful, such as the mere
mention that the bill was read on the Assembly floor on a particular date.
6. Check the Final History or Calendar
The Assembly Final History and the Senate Final History are compiled in the
Final Calendar of Legislative Business. These volumes contain a listing of
all the actions taken on each bill during that legislative session.
Search the Internet
www.leginfo.ca.gov is the Internet address of the official site for CA
legislative information. This site is maintained pursuant to CA law by the
Legislative Counsel of CA. It contains a useful archive of legislative
history for CA laws enacted after 1/1/93. At this site you can search for
CA legislative history by subject or by bill number. The easiest way to
search is by bill number: Click on "BILL INFORMATION" to get a search
screen where you can search by bill number. After you type in the bill
number, you can access the full text of bills, including status, history,
votes, analyses, and veto messages.
Search LEXIS and WESTLAW
* CAL;CODE (Deering's Cal. Codes, Annotated)
* CAL;CATEXT (Full text of all versions of CA bills from 1/91)
* CAL;CATRCK (CA bill tracking for the current year)
* CAL;CABILL (Combined CATEXT and CATRCK files)
* CAL;CACOMM (Committee Analyses for legislation from 1991) [These are
the best source of CA legislative history available on LEXIS]
* CA-ST-ANN (CA statutes annotated)
* CA-BILLTXT (Full text of CA bills)
* CA-BILLTRK (Status of CA bills)
* CA-BILLS (CA-BILLTXT and CA-BILLTRK combined)
* CCA (Committee analyses - current) [The best source for very recent CA
legislative history available on WESTLAW]
* CCA-OLD (Archived committee analyses from 1991) [The best source for
archived CA legislative history available on WESTLAW]
Other Sources to Check
Committee Hearings & Reports
Generally, there are not many published Committee Reports and fewer
transcribed Hearings. Not all committee hearings are transcribed, few
reports are prepared, and there is no record of floor debates.
HEARINGS: CA hearings are fact-finding sessions, with witnesses testifying
before the committee which schedules the hearings. Because the Legislature
has failed to provide for regular distribution of hearing transcripts to
libraries, it is usually necessary for interested persons to request the
transcripts they need directly from the appropriate committee chairperson.
REPORTS: Reports are studies made by Legislative Committees, Subcommittees,
or Joint Committees; they contain findings, recommendations, and witness
testimony. They are usually made at the request of either legislative body
by means of a resolution or joint resolution. The Judiciary Committees
often evaluate CA bills.
LOCATE HEARINGS AND REPORTS: You can find a listing of all the committee
action (including scheduled hearings) taken on a bill in the Final History
or Calendar. Note the bill's author, committees, committee action, reports,
or hearings. Final History or Calendar are available from 1867 to the
* Other finding aids that identify hearings and reports and indicate if
they have been transcribed and/or published are: California Interim
Legislative Committees and Reports (1955-69), Hearings and Reports of
Committees of the CA Legislature (1961-84 ), List of Reports Prepared by
State and Local Agencies, 1994.
Search CA Cases for Legislative Intent
You should do a thorough search of CA cases to locate any decisions which
have relied on legislative history to interpret the code section you are
researching. The best ways to find such cases are: 1) Look closely at the
annotation in the annotated CA Code; 2) Shepardize the Code section; 3) Use
the digests to research the code section or point of law; and, 4) Search for
cases on LEXIS or WESTLAW. There are several LEXIS and WESTLAW
files/databases which may be useful. (You might try searching in either the
CA cases database or the CA code database for references to "legislative
journals," "committee reports," "legislative counsel opinions," or "law
revision commission reports".)
Check Secondary Sources
* California Law Revision Commission Reports (1957-current). Includes
recommendations to the legislature and selected Senate and Assembly
Reports on particular bills.
* McGeorge Law Review (1998-current) publishes an annual review of CA
legislation. It includes tables of bill numbers and chapter numbers
with cross references. [This publication continues the annual reviews
in Pacific Law Journal [Review of Code Legislation] (1970-1997), the CEB
Review of Selected Code Legislation (1965-1969), and the State Bar of CA
* Shepard's California Citations - Statutes (KRR and REF TABLES).
Indicates which legislation has been amended or repealed, and lists
relevant cases and law review articles.
* Search journal and newspaper articles for discussions about legislation
and references to reports and hearings. For example: Legal newspapers
such as the LA Daily Journal (indexed on LegalTrac and available online
and in microfilm), local newspapers such as the Sacramento Bee (available
online), state gov't journals such as California Journal, and publications
of interested organizations such as the CA Trial Lawyers Assn.
* Handbook of the National Conference of Commissioner on Uniform State
Laws. 1892-1933, 1944-1989.
* California Legislative History and Intent: Research Practice Guide is a
practical "how to" guide for improving your advocacy skills when
legislative history intent is at issue. By Carolina C. Rose .
* A useful guide to CA legislative history is "Legislative Intent," Chapter
4, Henke's California Law Guide, 5th ed. 1999, by Daniel W. Martin.
* A good bibliography is "State Legislative Histories: A Select, Annotated
Bibliography," 85 Law Lib. J. 545 (Summer 1993).
Call Sacramento re Unpublished Sources
The State Archives, (916)653-2246, makes available to the public many
legislative resource materials. These include: The Governor's Chaptered
Bill File, 1943 - 90; Legislative Committee Records, 1940 - current;
Author's Bill Files, 1950 - date; and Agency Legislative Records, various
dates. The State Archives are located in Sacramento; for $0.25 per page,
they will photocopy and send all of the information available in their
files for a particular bill.
The Assembly Office of Research, (916) 445-1638, prepares the Assembly File
Analysis, a nonpartisan analysis of each bill. Bill analyses of the current
session are available from the Office.
The McGeorge Law Review, (916) 739-7171, retains files on selected
legislation for the past ten years. A search will be done for a $20 initial
search plus $15 per hour for subsequent research.
The California State Library is the main depository for legislative and
executive branch publications distributed to libraries. Access their
holdings through the California Digital Library at www.dbs.cdlib.org/
Visit Sacramento and Investigate
You can directly visit the relevant Senate and Assembly Committee offices
in the State Capitol as well as offices of individual Assembly and Senate
Members and other state gov't agencies that were or are involved or
interested in specific or related legislation. Legislative and the
Govornor's staff members are usually very helpful and can often direct you
other useful sources. Other state agencies may or may not be nearly as
helpful or accessible.
While not usually required, it can be helpful to call ahead, at least to
insure the offices will be open. Most are open to the public during normal
business hours while the legislature is in session.
Furthermore, though it can take both considerable time and luck, you can
sometimes find exceptionally useful information about legislation that is
unavailable in any publication or database. For example, believe it or
not, there are sometimes hidden agendas and purposes behind certain laws.
Also, quite often identifying what organizations and interest groups
supported or opposed a law (and then contacting them directly) can provide
further information that could be useful.
This essentially involves nitty gritty investigative research or fieldwork
- a subject seldom taught in law schools. However, even if it fails to
produce useful information it can provide one thing that most other forms
of legal research seldom do: A fun and sometimes exciting experience.
(A few hints: Honesty is usually the best policy, but sometimes more
"imaginative" techniques may be needed to uncover the truth. However,
offering bribes -even something that might be misconstrued as such - should
not only be avoided, but are almost never necessary. The same goes for
implied and explicit threats. In fact, we urge considerable thought, study
and planning before engaging in any but the most basic investigative
tecniques since unanticipated consequences - maybe even criminal ones - can
easily result if you get carried away and start thinking you're James Bond.)
Pay Someone Else to Do It
Finally, it simply may be easier to pay someone to do the Legislative
History Search for you. There are several commercial services that research
and compile CA Legislative Histories including Legislative Intent Service
(800)666-1917, Legislative Research Inc. (800)530-7613, and Legislative
History and Legislative Intent (888)676-1947.
This document was prepared by the 'Lectric Law Library ('LLL) using U.C. Hastings Law Library's Research Guide: Compiling a California Legislative History, last revised 2/2/01, 2001 U.C. Hastings College of the Law, as its primary source. The original document can be found at: www.uchastings.edu/library/guide/calleghist.htm
'LLL both added and deleted considerable materials in order to make the document more comprehensive as well as helpful to those without access to Hastings' fine law library. Format & original materials 2002 'LLL, all rights reserved.
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