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Legislative History Research

Federal, California & other states

Preliminary matters

California bills that become law are officially published as "Chapter Laws" in chronological order. These are the equivalent of session laws.


Legislative history traces a bill from its inception to when it becomes law or other final action. Legislative intent involves finding materials that would help determine why a bill was authored or what it was attempting to accomplish. Bills enacted more recently may contain introductory material that discuss the legislature's intent.

Identifying Chapter Laws and Public Acts

Annotations and credits are useful for identifying Chapter Law numbers. Commercial services may link to historic annotated codes and to session laws to quickly find public law and bill numbers. Check the information icon link for descriptions of content and years covered. It is unusual for these services to include complete collections of state committee reports, daily journals, hearing records, and other legislative history materials.

Annotations: Case Law, AG Opinions & more

With no sources of compiled California legislative history, use an annotated code to check for case law, attorney general opinions, and secondary sources that review the legislative history. While not as tidy as compiled legislative histories, if a court has already examined the legislative history, it may be binding or persuasive authority. An Attorney General Opinion that is cited by a court may also be persuasive. A journal article or California Jurisprudence could provide a road map to guide your own research. Since 1970, the University of the Pacific Law Review (formerly McGeorge Law Review) devotes one issue a year to a Review of Selected California Legislation, known as "Greensheets."

California Legislative Materials

Locating California Legislative Materials

Recommended texts


Contemporary newspaper articles on bills as they become laws can help provide context and an understanding of likely legislative intent. Access to the Los Angeles Times index (no full text) as early as 1982 is available through Gale Academic OneFile, as well as the the newspaper website. If you find relevant articles, contact the library for full text access. The San Diego Public Library provides access to three recent years of those newspapers, and to full text Los Angeles Times articles (to the 1980s) through Gale's Newsstand; it may also have back issues on microfilm. If you are in San Diego you may create a patron account for access to those articles along with access to the San Diego Public Library's other electronic resources.