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Legislative History   Tags: bills, congress, government, public laws, statutes  

Last Updated: Aug 6, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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General Library Information

Frances Willson Thompson Library

303 E. Kearsley St. 

Flint, MI 48502


Call 810.762-3408

Text 810.407.5434

Circulation 810.762.3400

Regular Fall/Winter Hours:

Monday-Thursday 8am-12am

Friday 8am-6pm

Saturday 10am-6pm

Sunday 12pm-10pm



This guide is intended to assist the researcher who is conducting a legislative history using the resources available at the Thompson Library, University of Michigan-Flint.  Please note that Thompson Library is not a member of the Federal Depository Library Program.  However, both the Government Documents and Law Library on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan are depository libraries.

A legislative history refers in general to the doumentation created during the legislative process, from the introduction of a bill through the various steps before it either becomes a law, is vetoed or just dies in session.   It should be noted that the majority of bills do not become law.  However, the documentation each bill generates may contribute useful background material when researching a similar bill that does become law.

The primary reason a legislative history is conducted is usually as a means to interpret a statute, especially where the statutory language is vague or unclear.   A history conducted on the background of the statute provides insight into the meaning and intent of the legislative body that created the law.   A history of the statute can help clarify the law and assist in determining how a statute applies to a specific situation.

Remember, too, that the legislative process is further modified by actions in other branches of the federal government.  Through the Judicial branch court decisions affect law and through the Executive branch agnecy rules and regulations both modify and/or generate law; both must be considered when doing a complete background on statues.

Conducting a legislative history is much like a treasure hunt.   You begin with clues (popular names, bills, Public Law numbers, etc) that lead you to other information.  Do not expect to obtain all answers to your research from a single source.  Be flexible.  Be patient.  Be dilligent. 

If you get stuck and need help, the librarians are here to help you. 

You can contact us with your questions:

Good luck and happy hunting!

For information on how to cite government documents, use the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation:

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, a style guide, prescribes the most widely used legal citation system in the United States. The Bluebook is compiled by the Harvard Law Review Association, the Columbia Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. Currently, it is in its 19th edition. It is so named because its cover is blue.

A print copy of the Bluebook is available at the Reference Desk (3rd floor, entrance) of the Thompson Library, UM-Flint.


The General Priciples of Government Citation is available online from Lexis-Nexis:




INFORMATION BUTTON (Letter "i" in Blue Circle)

Information Button (blue circle with letter i) contains details about any source item listed in this guide, such as:

  • itemized list of things provided
  • physical location
  • call/shelf number
  • coverage dates
  • document types

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