California Legislative History: Basic Online Research

Introduction to California Legislative Information Research

What is California Legislative History Research?

Are you interested in how a section of the California Codes was added, amended, or repealed? Do you want to know how a certain piece of legislation was developed as it made its way through the Legislature? Are you looking for the different versions of a legislative bill and the associated analysis? Performing California Legislative History Research can provide you with this information.

Overview of California Legislative History Information Online

Several official publications are available to assist you in performing this research. This guide will focus on research that you can perform entirely online and without any paid subscriptions. Our goal is to provide you with information about:

  • What is and is not currently available online
  • Where to find freely available resources
  • How to use this information so that your research can continue if you cannot visit the law library

Key Resources for California Legislative History Research Online

The following are the most useful, freely available information available online. We will discuss each in more depth later on:

Managing Expectations

While there is a wealth of information available online, the further back in California’s history you research, the less useful and less plentiful the information. This is because legislative documentation has become more plentiful and better preserved as times have progressed and because some older documentation is rarer and yet to be digitized. If at any time you have questions or cannot find information you need, please feel free to contact the Witkin State Law Library at csllaw@library.ca.gov and we will happily assist you.

Legislative History vs. Intent

Legislative history involves tracing the path of a bill from its inception to when it was chaptered or other final action. Legislative intent involves finding analyses, commentary, and other materials that would help a researcher determine why a bill was authored or what it was attempting to accomplish. While there is some information regarding intent online, it can only be found for the last few decades. Conversely, at least some information regarding legislative history goes back to the 19th century.

What can I expect to find regarding history and intent?

Legislative history can be traced far into California’s past.

  • A “Table of Laws Enacted” can be found with the statutes dating back to 1917. Other various charts can be found identifying statutes even further back with some browsing.
  • Text of bill versions can be found back to the 1993–1994 session and with less inclusiveness back to 1903.

Legislative intent cannot be readily traced back as far.

  • Bill Analyses — one of the most sought after resources regarding intent — can be found back to the 1993–1994 session online through LegInfo.

Performing Basic Legislative History Research Online

Resources Consulted

This guide is meant to assist you with performing basic California legislative history research online, using only these freely available resources.

With them, you should be able to conduct some research to find the full-text of California Legislative Bills back to 1993, and many more back to 1903. If you cannot find what you are looking for, the information is not contained within theses resources, or you have any questions:

Contact Us

Our librarians are always willing to assist with your research questions regarding California legislation. For assistance contact the Witkin State Law Library by email, call us at (916) 654-0185, or visit our website amd click on “Ask a Librarian” to enter your question.