California Legislative Intent

This guide provides resources for doing research on determining legislative intent of bills passed by the California legislature.

Other research guides

Henke's California Law Guide
Chapter 4 of this book deals entirely with legislative intent and the California legislative process.  See especially section 4.404 entitled, "Research Sources and Techniques" for tips on compiling a legislative history.

KFC 74 H46 2006  Reference Collection

California's Legislature
This is an in-depth introduction to the legislative process and state government.  Intended as a resource for students, lobbyists, state employees, and the general public.

Legislative History Clearinghouse
Contains tips on how to read the legislative history notes in annotated codes and an overview of the types of documentation available for different legislative periods.

Legislative Intent Service: Points and Authorities
A searchable Points and Authorities database providing discussion and case law on:

  • the use of legislative intent to interpret California law
  • the cases using different types of legislative documents,
  • the procedure for proffering legislative intent materials for judicial consideration

Legislative Research Incorporated: List of Complimentary Research Helps
A wealth of information sources and guides to compiling regulatory history and intent.  Also has links to other free sources of information on California legislative and regulatory research on the Internet.


Material is located in the California Collection, except as noted. Dates refer to the library holdings. See a Reference Librarian for assistance.

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.

Much of the material in this checklist is also available online. Consult the Lexis-Nexis Directory of Online Services and the Westlaw Database List for availability.

Information available by telephone from: Bill's authors, Committees that considered the bill, and the State Archives. Telephone numbers are available at the information services desk.

Subject Guide