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State Legislative Information

Step by Step Process

California Legal Research has a helpful section on legislative history, and sets out the process (and order of priority for documents) as follows: 

  1. Review the history note following a published statute to learn the original bill and session law number.
    1. You can do so by either pulling up the statute on Westlaw or Lexis (see the Credits section below the statute) to see when the statutory section was originally added and when it has been amended.
  2. Gather background information by locating the citation to the statute in Statutes and Amendments to the Codes.
  3. Check the Final History for the statute (pre-1993); or Bill Information (1993-2016) for details about the documents produced during the legislative process.
  4. Read the Legislative Counsel's Digest, printed at the beginning of the session law.
  5. Review the text of the bill and all proposed amendments to the original text.
    1. Lexis and Westlaw don't have really old session laws, but you can pull them up on HeinOnline's State Session Laws Library.
  6. Read any available committee staff Bill Analyses.
    1. Westlaw and Lexis have Bill Analyses from 1992 and 1991 (respectively). For older Bill Analyses, you'll need to contact the State Archive (see below).
  7. Read the Legislative Counsel Opinion, if one is available.
    1. These can sometimes be found in the Journal of the Assembly or the Journal of the Senate; otherwise, you'll need to contact the State Archive (see below).
  8. Look at the Letters of Intent, if available.
  9. Read the Governor's Signing Statement, if available.
  10. Read any relevant material in the "Review of Selected California Legislation," published by the McGeorge Law Review

The California State Archives is the best source of legislative history for statutes passed between 1943 and 1993. You can contact the Archives and request a copy of the legislative bill file for that bill; there is a copying charge and mailing fee, and the service requires 3-4 business days.

Additional Research Guides

Several libraries have put together excellent, detailed guides on California legislative history. We encourage you to review the following libraries' guides: