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Legislative History (Federal & State): Tracking Current Legislation

A guide to finding state and federal legislative documents and performing legislative history research.

Legislative History Before it is History

While using legislative history to interpret the meaning of ambiguous legislation or decipher the intent of legislature can be useful when there is a case in hand, often a lawyer's job involves keeping clients informed of prospective legislation, advising on the current legislative environment and even advocating for the legislation that best serves their clients' interests.

There are several tools for identifying proposed legislation, assessing its likely success and identifying the legislators most concerned with the debate.

Bill Tracking

When bills are proposed at either the state or federal level that affect your clients' interests, an attorney should monitor the status of that legislation.  Doing so, gives the client an opportunity to lobby for his interests or to prepare to comply with the new legislative framework.  Westlaw and Lexis Advance both allow bill tracking as does Congress.gov and some state government websites.

 

Voxgov

Legislative history focuses on congressional documents, committee reports, debates etc.  These are the most credible sources in court but social media, local news coverage and agency guides and opinions can be very useful in understanding the interests that craft legislation.  Voxgov allows a user to search official social media,agency information and legislative documents by topic or keyword.  It allows you to search by party and other demographic information and track the frequency that topic get mentioned.