Research Tips

Hastings School of Law created a guide: How to compile legislative history 

CA Legislative History Analysis

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"Researching pending legislation or the legislative history of a California statute can be a daunting process."
 –  John K. Hanft, Legal Research in California

This guide outlines the steps in researching a California[1] legislative history, illustrates the resources available at the Sacramento County Public Law Library, and suggests additional sources of information.

Step 1: Identify the Assembly or Senate bill number.

Step 2: Find and read all versions of the bill.

Step 3: Read "official" comments and analysis.

Step 4. Locate and review secondary sources of information.

Shortcut!  Westlaw offers two useful ways to access recent California legislative history. "Graphical Statutes" generates a chart representing legislative history of each statute since Jan. 2, 1999.  "PastStat Locator" shows statute text as it existed on any particular date since Jan. 1, 1999. These services can greatly simplify locating legislative information. Westlaw can be accessed at no charge in the Law Library. See below for more information on using these services.

Step 1: Identify the Assembly or Senate bill number of the legislation you are researching (e.g., AB 39 or SB 1031), if you don't have it. Sometimes this is included in the annotated code; if not, you must work backward from the statute to find it.  

a. Find the session law numbers after the text of the law inWest's Annotated Code (KFC30.5 .W48; also available through Westlaw's CA-ST-ANN database) and Deering's Annotated Code (KFC30.5 .D4). Check the pocket part!

Format:  "added by Stats. [year], c.[chapter number.], Sec. [number], page [number]" 

Example: "added by Stats. 1989, c. 97, Sec. 2, page 3"

b. Use the annual publication Statutes and Amendments to the Codes:

·         The full set, from 1850 to present, is available in the Law Library (KFC30 .A2).

·         The full set is also available at; use the drop-down menu for "Statutes".

1967 and later:  Beginning in 1967, the Statutes and Amendments includes a "Summary Digest"in the last volume of each year.[2] The digest lists laws by chapter number, provides a summary of their provisions, and includes the bill number and author.  If you have the bill number or statute but not the chapter number, use the digest's "Cross-Reference" and "Statutes Affected" tables.

Before 1967:  For bills enacted before1967, use the Statutes and Amendments' "Table of Laws Enacted"( in the first volume of each year) to convert session law numbers to bill numbers.

Step 2: Find and read all versions of the bill, plus any attached analysis or statements. Studying the different versions of the bills may be the best (and often the only) source for insight into legislative intent. All prints of a bill should be compared, particularly when amendments have been adopted or offered and rejected in the course of the legislative process. Read the Legislative Counsel's Digest (available since 1963) for each version .

Check the final text of the session law as printed in Statutes and Amendments, too; the Legislative Counsel's Digest or other uncodified statements in the session law may be helpful.

Resources for Step 2:

            Bills from 1975 to present (in the Library and online):

·         Current bills over 20 pages are available for review in print in the library (aisle 38A). Bills from 1975 through the prior year are available in the Library on microfiche. 

·         Beginning in 1987, Westlaw offers several legislative history and bill tracking databases, including CA-LEGIS, CA-BILLS, and CA-STN-BILLS (current legislation) and CA-LEGIS-OLD (1987 through prior year).

·         Beginning in 1993, "Official California Legislative Informationoffers bills free online ( This information often includes analyses prepared for the Senate and Assembly Committees.  Once you find the bill you're interested in, scroll down the page to "Analyses."

      Bills prior to 1975 (outside resources):

·      California State Library: Retrieving older bills may require a visit to the California State Library, Law Section, 900 N St., Room 100, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 654-0185. (

·      The San Francisco Public Library has California bills and other resources from 1867 to the present in its Government Information Center. 415-557-4500. (

·      Boalt Hall Law Library at UC Berkeley has bills from 1913 to present, with some gaps. (

Step 3:  Read "official" comments and analysis.  In addition to the official California "Bill Information" website mentioned above, there are a number of sources for this type of material.   

 ·         Final History or Final Calendar

o   1972-present in print (KFC14 [compact shelving]).

o   1881-2005 is available free online from the State Assembly athttp:// .

Look up your bill number for a list of all steps it took between introduction and the governor's signature. Use this list to identify committees that examined the bill and the time frame.

·         Journal of the Assembly and Journal of the Senate,

o   1968-present (KFC14 [compact shelving]

o   1849-1997 is available free online from the State Assembly at

o   1995-present is available through Westlaw's CA-LH database).

Making use of the information from the Final Histories and the Journals' annual indexes, read the daily entries for your bill to learn which legislators supported or opposed the measure and to find statements of "Legislative Intent," "Legislative Counsel Opinions," or letters clarifying a legislator's understanding of a particular bill. Such letters are indexed under "Motion to Print Letter Re:" "Journal, Print in" or "Print in Journal". 

·         Assembly File Analysis

1975-2002 (KFC6.A87 [microfiche]) These analyses were prepared by the Assembly Office of Research for selected bills from both Houses. If one happens to be available for your bill, the file will include information on committee actions, a short digest, a summary of comments by committee consultants, and an assessment of the effect of the bill, including fiscal effect. The comment section may provide background information on the bill's intent, and/or list proponents and opponents.

·         Committee records, reports, and transcripts of hearings when available can be useful in preparing a legislative history. 

o   Westlaw contains committee reports and other material in its CCA database (present session) and its CCA-OLD and STN-CCA databases (beginning with 1991).  Search for CI(senate or assembly & bill number), limited to the year in question. 

o   In print, start by checking the Final History or Final Calendar, as above, for the history of committee action.  Then, using the committee names, perform an author search in the Library's online catalog for "California. Legislature. Senate (or Assembly) Committee on ….."

o   Committee analysis since 1993 is available for free online at

Outside resources for Step 3. These are some places to find legislative information beyond that offered in the Sacramento County Public Law Library:

·         The California State Library, 900 N St., Room 100, Sacramento (916) 654-0185 ( contains additional reports and hearings) contains additional reports and hearings. 

·         The California State Archives, 1020 O Street, 4th fl. Sacramento (916) 653-2246 ( are an important source of legislative information. The Archives offers research services and document delivery; for more information, contact the Archives directly. Resources available through the Archives include:

o   Governor's Chaptered Bill Files (1943 – 2002).  The Governor's Office maintains files for each legislative bill chaptered or vetoed. These files typically contain analyses prepared by the Legislative Counsel, Attorney General, other constitutional officers, state agencies and the Governor's staff. Also available is correspondence from the bill's author as well as affected organizations and individuals. Vetoed bill files include the text of the Governor's veto message. 

o   Legislative Bill Files (1960-present) and Hearing Files (1940-present),  Agency Legislative Records (various dates), and Authors' Bill Files (1950-present).

·         Hastings Law Library in San Francisco is a depository library for California documents, and offers several useful databases on legislation and ballot measures since 1973 at

·         Personal contact with the author(s) of the bill and chairs of committees to which the bill was assigned: You may be able to access material that is not available in any library by contacting legislators or their staff directly. Contact information for current Assembly members is available at and for Senators at

Step 4: Secondary Sources

Cases and Attorney General Opinions.  The West and Deering's annotated codes (see Step 1) will contain references to secondary material following the statute. This material may include legislative reports and the like as well as cases and secondary sources discussing legislative intent.  Use both West and Deering's – they sometimes include different information. Shepard's (via Lexis) and KeyCite (via Westlaw) also provide citations for such material; again, search both if you have time.

Law review articles, encyclopedia entries, journals and newspapers may all provide discussion of pending legislation. The Library has many law reviews in its Periodicals room, including all law reviews based in California, and has access (often full-text access) to many more reviews, journals, and legal newspapers through the Hein Online and LegalTrac. Of particular interest are annual reviews of major California legislation published since 1955. While not all laws are reviewed, if you find one on your topic, it can be helpful:

·         California State Bar Journal, 1955-1963 (Periodicals Room).

·         Review of Selected Code Legislation (CEB), 1965-1969 (Historical KFC 30.5 S7).

·         The Pacific Law Journal Spring issue "green sheets," 1971- present, renamedMcGeorge Law Review in1997 (Periodicals Room).

Westlaw Resources

Westlaw offers a number of legislative history resources for recent bills and statutes. If you are researching a statute enacted since Jan. 2, 1999, you can do many of the steps above on Westlaw quickly and conveniently using either of two services: Graphical Statutes, and PastStat Locator.

To use either service, begin by pulling up the statute in question using the "California Statutes" or "California Statutes-Annotated" database (CA-ST or CA-ST-ANN). Make sure you are in "split screen" view – that is, along the left side of your screen, you should see a gray column with links for the statute you pulled up.  If you do not, click the small box along the right side of the screen to enter split screen view.

Graphical Statutes: Chart representing legislative history of a statute (beginning Jan. 2, 1999) When viewing a specific statute on Westlaw, on the left side of the page, you should see a link entitled "Graphical Statutes."  Click that link to retrieve a timeline identifying prior, current, and upcoming versions of the statute, and links to much of the background material identified in Step 2 and Step 3 (bill drafts, committee reports, etc), as well as KeyCite history and a list of versions. Significant case law may also be linked.

This provides a convenient way to both visualize and access legislative history material available through Westlaw for a particular current statute. This service is only available for California legislation enacted on or after January 2, 1999, but it will provide links to the previous text of the statute as far back as 1987. (This service is also available for United States Code sections enacted on or after Jan. 2, 1996.)

PastStat Locator: Statute text as it existed on a specific date (beginning Jan. 1, 1999) When viewing a specific statute on Westlaw, another option along the left side of the page is "Versions." Clicking this brings up a list of live links to past versions of the statute as it existed on a particular date. You can also pull up the text as it existed on a particular date by using Westlaw's "Table of Contents" feature in CA-ST and changing the "effective date" in the lower right hand corner to the date in question. 

This service will retrieve re-numbered statutes and also tell you when a statute or amendment is due to take effect, or when it is due to lapse.

Additional legislative background resources:

"Guide to the Legislative Process," from the California State Senate, is available on the Web at It sets forth a detailed, step-by-step description of the legislative process in California. This guide includes useful information on tracking current legislation and a very helpful glossary of legislative terminology.

California Law Revision Commissionreports, 1953 to present (KFC27.C3).  The Commission studies laws to determine if they need to be revised or updated, and issues reports to the Legislature proposing legislation. These reports are considered important legislative history. The annotated codes (Step 1) will make reference to relevant Law Revision Commission Reports, if any exist. You can also search for reports, including some free downloadable material, at the Commission's website at

Senate Office of Research maintains a website with Senate analyses on background information for many subjects of potential legislation, as well as specific information on past legislation and ballot proposals, at                               

Legislative Analysis Office publishes reports which sometimes include information on specific legislation and ballot proposals.  The office also prepares fiscal analyses of all proposed initiatives (prior to circulation) and analyses of all measures that qualify for the statewide ballot.

Judicial Council Annual Reports, and other reports and material since 1998, are available on the Web at 

Additional resources:

Books, articles, and other guides on legislative intent: There are many of these - we list a few of the standards:

·         John K.Hanft, Legal Research in California (5th ed., 2004) (Ref Desk KFC74 .H36)

·         Daniel W Martin, Henke's California Law Guide (7th ed., 2004) (KFC74 .H46)

·         Carolina Rose, California Legislative History and Intent: Practical "How to" Guidance for Improving Your Advocacy Skills When Legislative History or Intent is at Issue.  (KFC74.A9C34; available online at

·         A Guide to Finding California Legislative History, from the Law Library at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall.

Commercial firms – There are a number of businesses that can be hired to prepare a legislative history. Try checking the Yellow Pages under "Legislative Analysis & Consultants" and "Legislative Research."   Information on some of these firms is available in the library's Self-Help Room. 


kf 01/12/2010

[1] For federal legislative history, see Federal Legislative History Research: A Practitioner's Guide to Compiling the Documents and Sifting for Legislative Intent from the Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington School of Law:
[2] The Digest has also been bound separately since 1972 (KFC16.D5 [compact shelving]).

Nothing contained herein is tendered as nor should it be considered as legal advice.  What is legal is not necessarily justice.  Almost all of reality is non-"published", ergo, what is legally affirmed is always a retarded misrepresentation of reality.   Use at your own risk!