What is a federal legislative history?
A legislative history is the documentation created by Congress during the process of federal law-making. Legislative history documents include bills, committee hearings, committee prints, committee reports, congressional debate, and public laws. You may also be interested in presidential signing statements that accompany bills signed into law by the President.
What is the difference between legislative history and legislative intent?
Legislative history is simply the record of how the law came to be. Legislative intent is the purpose the legislation itself. Clues can be found by looking at the information contained within the history, such as remarks and debates related to the bill; changes in wording to the proposed legislation; and presidential signing statements; and other remarks made once this bill is passed by Congress or signed into law. However, a diligent researcher must also consider external factors, such as the political and economic environment at the time the legislation was developed and passed, the politics of the major players behind the bill - both formal and informal, and other legislation moving through Congress. Legislative intent may be clarified by administrative law or court action after the law in enacted.
What is helpful to know when you start researching a legislative history?
You should know the bill or public law name or the bill or public law number. See the Bills and Public Laws page for more information how to do this.
You also need to have a general understanding of the overall legislative process. A brief explanation is provided here, or you can read a more in-depth description of the process from the US House Parliamentarian.
For some more influential and well-known federal laws, it is possible that books or articles have been written containing legislative histories as well. You can try a search in the Library Catalog or in a related article database for such literature. In addition, you can also try the prin sources below.