Skip to main content

Legislative History: WestlawNext

This guide will help you compile a legislative history using library databases and other online resources.

Assessing Westlaw Campus Research

To access WestlawNext.; mouse over Find on the library homepage then click on .Databases;  if you are off campus, you will be prompted for your BU login.

The boxes below summarize general information for using some of the features in WestlawNext that are most useful for finding legislation and legislative histories. For more complete details on using this database, click on the Campus Help Guide PDF located under the Browse box on the WestlawNext homepage. 

Legislative Histories in WestlawNext

Compiled Histories

If you know the citation of the statute, enter it into the search box at the top of the WestlawNext  homepage.  When it comes up click on the tab that says Legislative History Materials.It will list all Reports, Congressional Record, Presidential Messages, and finally Compiled History. Click on this to see a list of all Congressional materials and hearings related to this statute, with links to them

Legislative History,on the All Content a good option if you don't know the exact citation. :It will search these six things simultaneously: Congressional Record, Congressional Testimony, Political Transcripts, U.S. Code Legislative History, U.S. GAO Legislative Histories, and U.S. Public Laws - Historical.

Search by name. Use the search box at the top to search all the content in Legislative History. This is the most efficient way to locate legislative history materials when you don't know the citation but do know the name of the law.. It is best to use the official name, including date of enactment,( such as "veterans health care act of 1992"), enclosed in quotation marks. Results will be sorted by type of document:   Only one document of each type will be displayed, but you can click on the "View all" link to see the rest, or click on the type of document in the left column.

Search by Keyword. You can do a keyword search if you do not know the name of a specific law or don't have any specific law in mind, but just a general area, such as environmental laws.  You may get thousands of results though so use this only if you are just searching for any law within that area. Results will be sorted by the six content areas  The U.S. Code Legislative History and U.S. GAO Legislative Histories will be most helpful.

You can also search any of the six content areas in the Legislative History area individually:

Legislative History - U.S. Code , 1948 to Present

The Legislative History database contains congressional committee reports setting out the legislative history of congressional bills, including reports on bills that did not become law, beginning with 1990.. In addition,it sets out the legislative history of public laws as reprinted in U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) from 1948 through 1989, as well as the legislative history of securities laws beginning with 1933 and presidential signing statements reprinted in USCCAN beginning with 1986.

To find  documents, use "This exact phrase" box in the form or the search box at the top of the page. Type in the official name of the law, including date of enactment, If you use the search box, enclose the name of the law in quotation marks to search it as a phrase. Your results list will include documents related to this law, such as House Reports (H.R. REP) and ,Senate Reports (S. REP). Scroll through to find the document that has the date and U.S.C.C,A.N. in the title.  You can see the dates of consideration and passage here and statement by the president. You can also link to the law itself

U.S. GAO Federal Legislative Histories

Comprehensive legislative histories for most U.S. Public Laws enacted from 1921 to 1995 , as compiled by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, including the text of laws, bills, committee reports, Congressional Record documents, transcripts of hearings, and other documents.This works in a similar way to the Legislative History -  U.S. Code. Type in the official name,, enclosed in quotation marks

U.S. Public Laws - Historical

Public Laws enacted during previous terms of Congress, beginning with the first session of the 93rd Congress in 1973.through 2014.

Congressional Testimony

Congressional Record has the text of the congressional record from 1985 to present. Begins with the First Session of the 99th Congress (1985) 

Congressional Record

Agendas and witness lists for U.S. congressional committee hearings, transcripts of oral statements, and written statements submitted to committees of Congress. Coverage begins with January 1993 and includes increased coverage from January 1996 to present and selected coverage from 1993 to 1996.

U.S. Political Transcripts

Transcripts of news conferences, press briefings, political speeches, and oral testimony from congressional committee hearings. Coverage begins with February 1994..

Finding Legislation using the Search Box

In the Browse box, using the All Content tab, click on Statutes & Court Rules. Now use the Search box at the top of the page to find legislation by citation, by name, or by issue.

By citation. If you have the exact citation of the statute, enter this into the search box. Do not worry about punctuation, case, or this symbol, §.  For example, to find Cal. Civ. Code § 56.21,.enter cal civ code 56.21. 

By name. You can also enter the official name of the statute, enclosed in quotation marks, in the search box. 

By issue. If you are not sure of the title of a statute or don't have a specific citation, you can search for statutes by issue. Type search terms related to an issue in the search box. By default, the United States Code Annotated USCA) will be searched.  You can click on USCA, at the far right of the search box, to select State laws instead or to search both State and Federal.

Finding Federal Legislation using the United States Code Annotated

After the U.S. Congress passes a bill and the president signs it into law, it is codified, or published in,the United States Code (USC), the official version of federal statutory law. WestlawNext publishes an annotated version of the USC, the United States Code Annotated (USCA). Each statute in the USCA is followed by summaries of published court decisions that interpret the statute..These summaries are also called annotations or notes of decisions. 

You can access the USCA by clicking on Statutes & Court Rules on the All Content tab. It is the first item listed under Federal. Click on it to see the Table of Contents. Click on one of the Titles which will expand to display Chapters that contain laws related to that issue.  Click on one to see that statute.  

Popular Name Table.  If you know the popular name of an act, you can use this to locate it .Look for it under Tools & Resources on the right side of the USCA.

Compiling the Legislative History

Once you have located the current law you want to use, click on the History tab at the top. It will give you information about the history of the statute,including::

  • Graphic Statute - timeline which helps you track changes to a statute.
  • Bill Drafts  -  drafts of bills introduced before a section was enacted into law
  • Versions - prior versions of the statute.
  • Validity -  cases, session laws and public laws (enacted legislation), and proposed legislation that may negatively impact the statute. 
  • Editor's and Revisor's Notes - summarizes legislative changes affecting the section.
  • Legislative History Materials - committee reports, ,testimony, and executive messages relevant to the section.

24/7 Librarian

Margie McCandless's picture
Margie McCandless
Bellevue University Freeman/Lozier Library