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Legal Research FAQs: Researching Legislative History


This guide provides tips for researching the Legislative History of a statute.  It is separated into Federal Legislative History and Illinois Legislative History sub-pages.

Introduction to Legislative History Research

When the language of a statute is unclear or ambiguous, attorneys will sometimes look to its legislative history to try to determine the intent or purpose of the legislature in enacting the statute.  "Legislative History" can refer both to the legislative process (the steps a bill takes on its way to becoming a law) as well as the documents generated during that process.  Legislative history is most relevant for providing background to interpret statutory language. Print resources are particularly useful for older searches, while recent legislation is probably most easily researched utilizing electronic resources.