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Legislative History: Federal and Washington. Bridge the Legal Research Gap 2005 Ann Hemmens University of Washington Law Library. What is Legislative History?. The progress of a bill through the legislative process The documents created during that process

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legislative history federal and washington

Legislative History:Federal and Washington

Bridge the Legal Research Gap 2005

Ann Hemmens

University of Washington Law Library

what is legislative history
What is Legislative History?
  • The progress of a bill through the legislative process
  • The documents created during that process
    • versions of bills and amendments, committee reports, debates, and hearings
why does it matter
Why does it matter?
  • Look to legislative history to help interpret statute
  • What was the intent of Congress?
  • Most important legislative history materials, in order:
    • Committee Reports (contain analysis & recommendations)
    • Bills (including different versions & amendments)
    • Sponsor remarks made on the House or Senate floor (debates)
    • Committee hearings (public hearings held by committees considering bills)
courts use legislative history
Courts Use Legislative History
  • WA: “When a statute is ambiguous, we apply principles of statutory construction, legislative history, and relevant case law, giving effect to the Legislature's intent.” State v. Manro, 125 Wash.App. 165, 173 (2005)
  • FEDERAL: “As for the propriety of using legislative history at all, common sense suggests that inquiry benefits from reviewing additional information rather than ignoring it. . . Our precedents demonstrate that the Court's practice of utilizing legislative history reaches well into its past. See, e.g., Wallace v. Parker, 6 Pet. 680, 687-690, 8 L.Ed. 543 (1832). We suspect that the practice will likewise reach well into the future.” Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, 501 U.S. 597, 610 (1991)
  • West Digest Topic [Statutes] & Key Numbers:
    • 361k217.2 k. Legislative Historyof Act.
questions answered in legislative history
Questions Answered in Legislative History
  • Who sponsored this legislation and why? What did he or she say about it during debates?
  • How did the language of the law change in various versions of the bill? Amendments?
  • What did the Committee recommend in their Report?
federal legislative history
Federal Legislative History
  • Research Guide http://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/fedlegishist.html
  • Remember:
    • CIS Index / LexisNexis Congressional
    • THOMAS http://thomas.loc.gov/
    • USCCAN (United States Code Congressional and Administrative News)
step 1 look for compiled legislative history
Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories: A Bibliography of Government Documents, Periodical Articles, and Books, 1st Congress-105th Congress(by Nancy P. Johnson)

Search Library Catalogs

USA PATRIOT Act: A Legislative History

Federal Estate, Gift, And Generation-Skipping Taxes: A Legislative History

Step 1:Look for Compiled Legislative History
step 2 identify lh documents
Step 2: Identify LH Documents
  • CIS Index & Legislative Histories
    • Print
    • Online
      • LexisNexis Congressional (available at UW & SU) http://lib.law.washington.edu/research/dbind.html
      • Lexis (Legal>Federal Legal - U.S.>Legislative Histories & Materials>US - CIS Legislative Histories)
  • THOMAS website
thomas http thomas loc gov
Thomas http://thomas.loc.gov/
  • Free
  • Reliable (Library of Congress)
  • Public laws, committee reports, bills, debates, hearings
  • Example online
    • Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 (108th Congress)
step 3 locate the documents
Step 3: Locate the Documents
  • Committee Reports:
  • United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN), 1941-date.
    • Print
    • Westlaw (USCCAN)
  • Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003
    • Pub.L. No. 108-105
    • H. REP. NO. 108-288
step 3 locate the documents22
Step 3: Locate the Documents
  • Committee Hearings
  • GPO Access
    • covers 1997-date, selective.
    • http://www.gpoaccess.gov/chearings/index.html
    • only online source of official published hearings (other sources are testimony transcripts only).
    • Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.
step 4 analyzing the documents
Step 4:Analyzing the Documents
  • Norman J. Singer, Statutes and Statutory Construction (6th ed. 2003).
    • [also known as Sutherland on Statutory Construction]
  • Ronald Benton Brown et al.,Statutory Interpretation: The Search for Legislative Intent(2002).
washington legislative history
Washington Legislative History
  • Research Guide http://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/washleghis.html
  • Remember
    • Legislature’s website
    • State Archives
basics of wa legislative history research
Basics of WA Legislative History Research
  • In 1897, WA Supreme Court looked at sequential drafts of a bill to determine legislative intent. Howlett v. Cheetham, 17 Wash. 626 (1897).
  • Materials generally available from mid-1970s forward.
  • Materials available in print at local law libraries, on the Legislature’s website, and Westlaw and LexisNexis.
  • Contact People
    • WA State Archives -- copies of bill file
    • House or Senate Committee considering a bill in past 2 years – copies of bill file
    • House and Senate Journal Clerks – audiotape of floor debates
step 1 start with rcw section
Step 1: Start with RCW section
  • RCW § 9.91.170Interfering with dog guide or service animal.
    • Statutory history in parenthetical
    • [2003 c 53 § 52; 2001 c 112 § 2.]
  • WA Legislature’s RCW page
    • http://www.leg.wa.gov/rcw/index.cfm
step 2 session laws bill
Step 2: Session Laws & Bill #
  • WA Legislature’s Bill Information page
    • Legislative documents: bills & amendments, session laws, committee reports; 1997 – current)
    • What’s Bill #? Finding Aids: Chapter to Bill Table, RCW to Bill Table, Topical Index etc.
  • Example: Chapter to Bill Table
    • (2001, c.112 § 2) → Senate Bill 5942: Increasing penalties for crimes against dog guides and service animals
step 3 documents available online
Step 3:Documents Available Online
  • Legislative Digest and History of Bills (chronology & reporting committee) (in print: 1970-date)
  • Versions of Bill & Amendments
  • Final Legislative Report (Final Bill Report) (in print: 1979-date)
  • Roll Call Votes
step 4 house senate journals
Step 4:House & Senate Journals
  • Available only in print at law libraries.
  • Include: “point of inquiry” (question and answer about a particular bill), amendments & substitutions, dates of floor action.
  • need references to floor debate to request audiotape from House or Senate Journal clerks (not transcribed).
wa senate journal example 1
WA Senate Journal Example 1

Journal of the Senate (March 12, 2001)


[concerning Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill No. 5372]

Senator Brown: “Senator Prentice, is it the intent of this legislation to provide only for agreements with twelve tribes that own and operate smoke shops and not provide a precedent for other tribes which have different circumstances such as independent smoke shops that are licensed by the tribal government, such as Puyallup?”

Senator Prentice: “Yes, this bill represents terms and conditions agreed to by only the tribes listed in the bill. The state recognizes that agreements with other tribes may involve alternative rates and conditions.”

Debate ensued.

wa senate journal example 2
WA Senate Journal Example 2

Senate Journal (March 12, 2001)


[concerning SB 5993]

Senator Hochstatter: “Senator Oke, my understanding is that the Cedar River is Seattle’s watershed. Is that correct?”

Senator Oke: “That is correct, Senator Hochstatter.”

Senator Hochstatter: “Just to continue, I have no objection to second hand smoke, but to second hand Oke?”

step 6 wa state archives
Step 6: WA State Archives
  • Committee Bill Files
    • Mid-1970’s forward
    • Committee keeps files for 2 years (current bills)
  • Committee meeting audiotapes (mid 1970s forward)(not transcribed).
  • Governor's files on specific bills (1951-1955 & 1965-1984).
  • Legislative Council records (1947-1973) and personal papers of some legislators (files are incomplete).
    • See Guide to the Papers of Washington State's Legislative Archives.
  • Research Section of the WA State Archives in Olympia
    • (360-586-1492) | Research@secstate.wa.gov | http://www.secstate.wa.gov/archives/leg_history.aspx
    • copy, and send bill files and committee tapes for reasonable fee.
    • Archives open to the pubic.
legislative history tips to remember
Legislative History Tips to Remember
  • Federal Research Guide online
    • USCCAN
    • THOMAS
    • CIS
  • Washington Research Guide online
    • Legislature’s website
    • State Archives