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Legislative History (Federal & State)

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Illinois Legislative History

Illinois has a relatively deep collection of legislative materials hosted on the Illinois General Assembly's website (ILGA). You can use the ILGA website to find copies of proposed bills, track legislation, look at historical materials, find transcripts from floor debates, and sometimes to locate other materials from committees and hearings.

How to Conduct an IL Legislative History

Note: a full legislative history is only available if the law is from after 1971. IL had a completely different system prior to 1971, and a full legislative history is not able to be constructed from those documents.

  • Step 1: Find the statute
    • For this example, we will be using 720 ILCS 5/1-3
    • The statute can be found either in the 720 ILCS printed book or online at ilga.gov
      • To search online
        • ilga.gov
        • Hover over “legislation and laws” in the blue bar at the top of the screen
        • Click on “compiled statutes”
        • Scroll down to “Chapter 720 Criminal Offenses” and click on it
        • Click “720 ILCS 5/ Criminal Code of 2012” (the first link listed)
        • Scroll or Ctrl+F to find 720 ILCS 5/1-3
  • Step 2: At the end of the statute, there is a source. It will look like this: (Source: P.A. 79-1360)
    • This is the public act we need in order to find the legislative history for this statute.
  • Step 3: Find the timeline of readings for the statute. These were important dates in the life of the statute, such as the First Reading, Second Reading, Third Reading, and Concurrence. These were the dates that debates were held, and the transcripts of these debates are what make up a legislative history. This step can either be completed online or with a book.
    • Book
      • To complete this step with a book, you actually need two books: Laws of Illinois X General Assembly, and the Legislative Synopsis and Digest X General Assembly.
      • For this public act, we need the following book: Laws of Illinois, 79th General Assembly, 1976 Session and Special Sessions, Public Act 79-1188 to Public Act 79-1512
        • The “79” on our public act number indicates which General Assembly the act is from.
        • The "1360" is the actual act number, and the range on the book title indicates that this public act will be in this volume.
      • The Public Act number on the page is listed in the top corner of that page, so just look for Public Act 79-1360.
        • It starts on pg. 787.
      • Look for a House or Senate Bill number. This is typically listed after the full title of the act.
      • In this case, it’s House Bill no. 2730, and was approved on August 6, 1976.
      • Now, pull the Legislative Synopsis and Digest from the 97th General Assembly, 1976.
      • There are three volumes for this assembly. The books do not have great tables of contents. The best way to see if the bill is in the book is just to look for it. The bills are in numerical order.
        • In this case, the bill is in Vol. 2 on page 936.
      • For each bill, there will be a timeline of readings for each chamber of government, which looks like a long list of dates. Typically, you want to find second readings, third readings, recalls to second readings, and concurrences (if any). These dates are dates on which the bill was debated, and transcripts of those debates are available (finding those is the next step in this process).
      • Write down or make available the dates of each relevant reading in order. In this case, the following dates should be noted:
        • May 9, House Second Reading
        • May 17, House Third Reading
        • Note that on May 19, the bill was sent to the Senate
        • Apr 28, Senate Second Reading
        • June 2, Senate Recalled to Second Reading and Senate Third Reading
        • Note that on June 3, the bill went back to the House
        • June 16, House concurrence of Senate amendment
    • Online
      • After finding the PA number, go back to the homepage of ilga.gov.
      • Click on “Public Acts”
      • If the act you’re looking for is from the current General Assembly, click on the relevant public act section.
      • If the act you’re looking for is not from the current General Assembly, click “Public Acts/Leg. From Previous General Assemblies” near the top of the screen
      • Select the relevant GA from the drop-down menu near the top of the screen. In this case, we need the 79th GA. (Remember that we are working with Public Act 79-1360; the "79" indicates which GA we need to look through.)
      • Now, click “Search” for House transcripts.
      • Click on “Master Index.” This will bring up a PDF of the index for the assembly.
      • Ctrl + F the bill number. In this case, it’s 2730.
      • In some GAs, there are full dates listed. In others, only the day number is listed. For example, if a bill was debated on the first day of the session, it will be listed as #1 - pg X
        • In this case, only the session day of the concurrence is listed. You would have to use a book in order to find the relevant debate days.
      • Other GAs have indices that include all debate dates. For example, PA 82-553 has these lists available online.
        • Find the bill number for PA 82-553, either using a book or the online conversion PDF. In this case, the bill is Senate Bill 0867
        • Follow the same steps above, but choose the 82nd Assembly instead of the 79th.
        • Click Search in the Senate Transcripts box.
        • Click Master Index. This will bring up a PDF of the master index.
        • Ctrl + F and type 867 in the search box
        • All relevant dates are listed on PDF pg 51.
        • Record the relevant dates.
        • Then, go back to the GA page and select “Search” in the House transcripts box.
        • Click on Master Index. This will bring up a PDF of the master index for the House.
        • Ctrl+F the bill number, 867
        • The first entry is a House bill with the same number. Remember that this is a Senate bill, and move on to the next entry.
        • All relevant dates for the House debate are on PDF pg. 214. Record those dates, then go through the next step to find and save debate transcripts.

 

  • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Step 4: Find and save debate transcripts. These are only available online at ilga.gov. For this step, we will again be using P.A. 79-1360.
    • Go to ilga.gov
    • Click on “Public Acts”
    • If the act you’re looking for is from the current General Assembly, click on the current public act section.
    • If the act you’re looking for is not from the current General Assembly, click “Public Acts/Leg. From Previous General Assemblies” near the top of the screen
    • Select the relevant GA from the drop-down menu near the top of the screen. In this case, we need the 79th GA.
    • Select the 79th GA, then click Go!
    • Now, click the Listings for the House Transcripts option.
    • Choose May 9, 1975 (our first relevant date) from the drop-down menu. This will open a PDF of the transcripts.
      • The best way to find the beginning and end of the debate over our House bill is to search for it using Ctrl + F.
      • In the Ctrl+F search box, type the number of the bill, 2730, then press Enter. The page will automatically jump to the first entry of 2730 in the transcript.
      • The debate for 2730 begins on PDF page 192. The PDF page and the page number of the transcript may not match, so watch out for that.
      • In this case, the debate for 2730 also ends on PDF page 192. This is evident from the speaker moving on to Bill 2731.
        For Third Readings, the end of the relevant debate is often after a vote is called for that bill.
        • Basically, just keep reading until the transcript mentions another bill number. At that point, the relevant debate is probably over.
        • You can go through each entry of the bill number just to be sure.
      • To save the relevant page, open the print dialog. This can be done either by pressing the Print button on the top right of the screen or by pressing Ctrl + P.
      • There is a drop-down menu to the right of Destination. Choose “Save as PDF” from that menu.
      • Next, there is a drop-down menu to the right of Pages. Choose “Custom” from that menu.
      • Type in the page numbers of the pages you wish to save. In this case, we only need to save page 192, so type 192 into the box.
      • Click the blue Save button at the bottom of the window, then save the PDF in the folder you wish to use. Try to name the file something that makes it clear which file it is; for example, this file could be saved as “House Second Reading” or, if you wish to keep the items in order, “1 House Second Reading”
      • Repeat these steps for each date listed.


         

State Legislative History

State by State Guide

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: this area to be populated with a state-by-state resource list.