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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 history.
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 database.
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 (1984)).
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 "Legislative Intent".
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 current time.
* 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 Journal (1955-1963).]
* 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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