LAW 544 - Legislation

This guide is written for Professor Steinhardt's course on legislation. It contains materials on the state, and federal, legislative process and the documents that are produced therein.

What is a legislative history?

The term legislative history refers to those documents which are produced in the process of enacting a law. In California, the legislative counsel analysis, committee reports and votes, floor votes, veto messages and other messages, fiscal impact statements and finance reports, bill text and amendments, all provide evidence of legislative intent. Legislative intent is most important when the language of the bill or law is ambiguous or uncertain. Lawyers study these documents to find support for their position on how a particular law should be applied in a particular situation.

The legislative history can be found in several places. It can be found as part of current law in the print version of the California Code, on microfiche from direct publications of the Assembly and Senate and older versions of the Code and off the Internet using the World Wide Web or through Lexis or Westlaw. 

You will find that locating the legislative history may be difficult to do as most of the information did not become readily available until fairly recently. Floor debates, testimony and unofficial reports are not available. However, such documents may be a rich source of information regarding the intent of the legislation. For that information you will need to consult the Committee directly, the State Library or State Archives.

A bill starts in one Chamber where it is assigned a committee. A committee holds hearings, takes information and issues recommendation on passage of a bill. There are votes in committee and votes in the Chamber. Once a bill has passed one chamber it goes to the other chamber where it is again assigned a committee. If a bill passes the other Chamber, the bill is sent to the Secretary of State where the bill is chaptered and then on to the Governor for signature.