Part I: Seven-Step Guide
1. Look at the Codes

Find and note the session law chapter numbers, given at the end of the code section. An example is "Added by Stats.1978 c. 458 1," which means the statute first appeared in Statutes and Amendments to the Code 1978, chapter 458, section 1.

West’s Annotated California Codes ( KFC30.5W4 - 4th Floor Stacks & Reference Desk) and Deering’s California Codes Annotated ( KFC30.5 D4 - 4th Floor Stacks) provide the current version of the law, a list of all of the amendments to the law, and the session law chapter numbers. (E.g. Added Stats. 1978 c. 458 1. Amended Stats 1984 c. 334 1). The annotated codes may also provide references to interim hearings, committee reports, legislative counsel opinions, law revision commission reports, attorney general opinions, the California Code of Regulations, law review articles, and notes of court decisions.

Be sure to check the pocket part or pamphlet for the most recent amendments, law review articles, court decisions, and other legislative history.

Note: West’s Annotated California Codes includes the bill number after the text of the code section, for laws passed after 1994 (E.g. Added by Stats. 1997, c. 852 (AB 1191), § 4). AB stands for Assembly Bill; if your example lists (S 392), then S stands for Senate.

Lexis Advance: Deering’s California Codes Annotated can found by clicking on the Browse Sources link and then searching for the source "CA - Deerings' California Codes Annotated."

WestlawNext: West’s Annotated California Codes can be found by typing "California Statutes" in the search box.

California Legislative Information is the main Internet address of the official site for California legislative information. This site is maintained pursuant to California law by the Legislative Counsel of California. It contains the current codified statutes, searchable by keyword or citation. You can limit your search by title. Just click on "California Law" at the top.

To begin a legislative history on a code section that is not current,  Hastings has print collection of historical code volumes from several publishers available on the 6th floor at KFC 30.5.  The Library also has a historical collection of Deerings CA codes and pocket parts from 1866-2000. These volumes are an invaluable tool to find the law exactly as codified in any particular year. They are located on the sixth floor in the study space near room 620A. Many early California Statutes (1849-1938) are now available electronically in the Session Laws Library (HeinOnline)
2. Look at the Uncodified Law
Find and note the bill number and year. (E.g. AB 2797 (1978) or SB 2221 (1984)).

California session laws are published in Statutes and Amendments to the Codes ( KFC25 4th Floor Stacks). The library has the print version of Statutes and Amendments to the Codes in the library for the years 1849 through 2008 and electronically through 2012 in the Session Laws Library (HeinOnline)

From 1993 through current, the Statutes and Amendments to the Codes are also available on the Internet at the Legislative Counsel's former site: California Legislative Information (Former Site) This uncodified version of the law may contain an urgency statement or some other message of intent, which may be excluded when codified.

You will need to use the chapter number to find the bill number. The Summary Digest ( KFC 5 - 4th Floor Stacks) is a good place to locate the bill number, a summary of the bill’s text, and its effective date. Beginning in 1968, the Summary Digest for each year is also available in the last volume of the Statutes and Amendments to the Codes.

In addition, the first volume of every year's Statutes and Amendments to the Code has a chart called the Table of Laws Enacted, which also has a conversion chart for chapter number to bill number.

The Summary Digest [ KFC 5 - 4th Floor Stacks] is available at Hastings for 1949-51 & 1960 - 2008. The Summary Digest is available at the San Francisco Public Library for most of the years from 1937 - 2008.

The Statutes and Amendments to the Code, for most of the years from 1850 to 2008, and, since 1968, the Summary Digest, are provided online at the California Assembly Clerk Archive site. Click on Statutes and then on the appropriate year. (Hint: Click on the active PDF document.)
3. Analyze the Bill
Studying the bill in all its versions is one of the best sources of legislative intent. Additions and deletions are indicated by italics and strikeout type. The text of each version is preceded by the Legislative Counsel’s Digest which summarizes changes. Some bills include a statement of intent or policy, which might be omitted in the codified version.

California legislative bills are available in microfiche for the years 1963 to 2004, and are located in Cabinets #21-22 the Micrographics Room.

California bills and background information, from 1993 to date, are also available on the Internet at California Legislative Information . Select "Bill Information" at the top.  If the bill after 1998, you can just enter the bill number in the search box and select the appropriate session year. For bills from 1993 through 1998, you must enter the year and number of the enacted chapter law.  On this site you can access the full text of bills, including status, history, votes, analyses, and veto messages.

The Documents Department at the San Francisco Public Library has California bills from 1867-current.

The Legislative Counsel's Digest is also published at the beginning of the chaptered version of the bill and in the Summary Digest for each year of the Statutes and Amendments to the Code.
4. Read Analyses
Assembly File Analyses: These analyses were prepared by the Assembly Office of Research for both Senate and Assembly Bills through the 1997/98 legislative session (after which the office was closed). Each analysis includes information on committee actions, the proposed fiscal effect of the bill, a short digest, a summary of comments by committee consultants, and an assessment of the effect of the bill. They are available from 1975 through 2002 in the Micrographics Room (KFC20.A7 / cabinet #22). They are arranged by year and bill number.

Committee Analyses: These analyses are written by the staff of the committees of the California State legislature; they summarize the activity taken on the bill in the committee and often include information about the bill's intent. Floor and Committee Analyses are available online from 1993 to current at: California Legislative Information

Author's Bill File:  These files include amendments, analyses, letters, resolutions, telegrams, testimony, position statements in support or opposition, Legislative Counsel opinions and conflict letters, author's floor and committee statements, press releases, newspaper editorials and clippings, background reports, information, and data.  Bill files from the following legislators are available on microfilm in the Micrographics Room (KFC20.A3 / cabinet #47): Badham, Belotti, Briggs, Cobey, Collier, Crown, Duffy, Dunlap, Ingalls, Johnson, Kapiloff, Knox, Maddy, Marler, McAlister, Miller, Mills, Mobley, Murphy, Nejedley, Porter, Priolo, Rodda, Song, Stevens, Unruh, and Zenovich. 

WestlawNext: Senate and Assembly Analyses and Bill Histories from the 1993 through current.  Enter "California Legislative History" in the main search box to find the database.

The library also has the following committee files on microfilm in cabinet 48: Assembly Ways & Means Bill Files 1975-1982 (KFC20 A8 W39); Assembly Ways & Means (Minority) Bill Files 1981-1986 (KFC20 A8 W392); Senate Committee on the Judiciary Files 1969 -1992 (KFC20 S5 J74); Senate Rules Committee Files 1985-1988 (KFC20 S5 R75); Third Reading Analysis (Senate Democratic Caucus) 1975-1984 (KFC20 S5 D56); Third Reading Analysis (Senate Republican Caucus) 1972-1984 (KFC20 S5 R58).
5. Read the Governor's File
When the governor signs a bill into law, the bill is filed with the Secretary of State and chronologically "chaptered." For each bill that is chaptered, a file is created containing the documents the governor's office has received regarding that bill. The Governor's Chaptered Bill Files from 1943 - 2010 are available on microfilm in the Micrographics Room (KFC7.G68 / cabinet #47). The files typically contain, at a minimum, the enrolled bill report and a letter from the bill's sponsor. In addition, there are files from bills vetoed by a governor; these files include the governor's veto statement. Please ask for assistance with viewing microfilm at the Reference Desk.
6. Analyze the Journals
Look at the indexes to the Journal of the Assembly ( KFC 5 4th Floor Stacks) (1854-2006) and the Journal of the Senate ( KFC 5 4th Floor Stacks) (1852-2004) for the year the bill passed. The index is usually in the last volume of the Journal for each year. (Some of the Journals do not have indexes; these can be accessed by looking at the Final History or Calendar volumes ( KFC 14 - 4th Floor Stacks) mentioned in item #7 below.)

The Bill Action Index lists all of the page numbers in the Journals where the bill is mentioned.

The Alphabetical Index lists other legislative history documents included in the Journals. Look in the index for "Legislative Counsel Opinions" and "Legislative Intent." Also check the listings for "Journal, Print in" or "Print in Journal" for letters of clarification and communication regarding bills, which usually contain additional information on intent.

The Assembly and Senate Journals contain committee and floor roll call votes, Governor’s veto messages, legislators' letters of intent, and Legislative Counsel’s Opinions if printed. While only a few legislative counsel opinions are reprinted each year, they can be very valuable. For the journals for the years before the 1970s, check for an appendix; committee reports on passed or pending legislation were sometimes printed in these appendices. The University Library at UC Davis publishes an online Index to Reports Published in the Appendices to the Journals of the California Legislature 1905-1970.

Other items included in the Journals may not be helpful, such as the mere mention that the bill was read on the Assembly floor on a particular date.

The Journal of the Assembly for most of the years from 1849 to 2008 is available online at the California Assembly Clerk Archive site. Click on Journals, and then on the appropriate year. (Hint: Click on the active PDF document.)
7. Check the Final History or Calendar
The Assembly Final History and the Senate Final History are compiled in the Final Calendar of Legislative Business ( KFC 14 - 4th Floor Stacks). These volumes contain a listing of all the actions taken on each bill during that legislative session.

The Assembly Final History and the Senate Final History for most of the years from 1881 to 2008 are available online at the California Assembly Clerk Archive site. Click on Histories and Indexes, and then on the appropriate year. (Hint: Click on the active PDF document.)
Part II: Additional Sources
California Cases
You should do a thorough search of California cases to locate any decisions which have relied on legislative history to interpret the code section you are researching. The best ways to find such cases are:
  1. Look closely at the annotation in the annotated California Code
  2. Shepardize or Keycite the Code section
  3. Search for cases on Westlaw or Lexis. Try searching the California cases database for the code section within the same paragraph as "legislative history."
Committee Hearings & Reports
Generally, there are not many published Committee reports and fewer transcribed hearings. Not all committee hearings are transcribed, few reports are prepared, and there is no record of floor debates.

California hearings are fact-finding sessions, with witnesses testifying before the committee which schedules the hearings. Because the Legislature has failed to provide for regular distribution of hearing transcripts to libraries, it is usually necessary for interested persons to request the transcripts they need directly from the appropriate committee chairperson.

: Reports are studies made by Legislative Committees, Subcommittees, or Joint Committees; they contain findings, recommendations, and witness testimony. They are usually made at the request of either legislative body by means of a resolution or joint resolution. The Judiciary Committees often evaluate California bills.
Locate Hearings and Reports Available at Hastings:

You can find a listing of all the committee action (including scheduled hearings) taken on a bill in the Final History or Calendar ( KFC 14 - 4th Floor Stacks). Note the bill’s author, committees, committee action, reports, or hearings. The Hastings Library has the Final History or Calendar for 1915, 1919-43, and 1947-2006. The San Francisco Public Library has the Final History or Calendar from 1867 to current.

In the library's Classic Catalog, choose a subject search and then enter the bill number (e.g. AB908). If you don’t locate any hearings or reports with this search, you can also search by title, subject, and author. Author searches must begin: California. Legislature. Assembly (or Senate) Committee on . . . .

The Appendices to the Senate and Assembly Journals include a few selected hearings and reports reprinted in full: Appendix of the Senate Journal (1946 - 70) ( KFC 5 - 4th Floor Stacks), Appendix of the Assembly Journal (1956 - 70) ( KFC 5 - 4th Floor Stacks).

Other finding aids that identify hearings and reports and indicate if they have been transcribed and/or published are: California Interim Legislative Committees and Reports (1955-69) ( KFC 10 .B8 Reference Desk), Hearings and Reports of Committees of the California Legislature (1961-84 ) ( KFC 16.L4 1963 Reference Desk), List of Reports Prepared by State and Local Agencies, 1994 ( KFC 721 .A15 L57 - 6th Floor Stacks).
Secondary Sources
California Law Revision Commission Reports (1956-2011) [ KFC27 .A3 - 4th Floor Reading Room]. Includes recommendations to the legislature and selected Senate and Assembly Reports on particular bills. The California Law Revision Commission maintains a bibliography of all Law Revision publications (as well as information on current topics) at: California Law Revision Commission

McGeorge Law Review
(1998-2012)  [K 16 .A31 5th Floor Stacks]  publishes an annual review of California legislation.  It includes tables of bill numbers and chapter numbers with cross references. Earlier reviews appear in Pacific Law Journal [Review of Code Legislation] (1970-1997) [K 16.A3 5th Floor Stacks] and the State Bar of California Journal (1926-1981) [K 23.T35 5th Floor Stacks]. Early issues of the State Bar of California Journal are good places to look for information on older statutes.

The California Senate Office of Research maintains a web site with Senate analyses on past legislation and ballot propositions.

Search journal and newspaper articles for discussions about legislation and references to reports and hearings. For example: Legal newspapers such as the LA Daily Journal (indexed on LegalTrac and available online and in microfilm), local newspapers such as the Sacramento Bee (available online and at SFPL), state government journals such as California Journal (available at Hastings ( K3 .A44 - 5th Floor Stacks) and at SFPL from 1970 through current), and publications of interested organizations such as the Consumer Attorneys of California.

Handbook of the National Conference of Commissioner on Uniform State Laws ( KF165 .A2 5th Floor Stacks). 1892-1933, 1944-1989-2010.

California Legislative History and Intent: Research Practice Guide is a "how to" guide for improving your advocacy skills when legislative history intent is at issue.  By Carolina C. Rose ( KFC 74 .R67 1997 - 6th Floor Stacks). 

A useful guide to California legislative history is "Legislative Intent," Chapter 4, Henke’s California Law Guide, 8th ed. 2006, by Daniel W. Martin ( KFC 74 .H46 2006 ) (Reference Desk).

A good bibliography is "State Legislative Histories: A Select, Annotated Bibliography," 85 Law Libr. J. 545 (Summer 1993).

If you just would like to understand more about the legislative process, the Office of the Chief Clerk for the Assembly publishes several useful guides, including "A Guide to the Legislative Process," "The Life Cycle of Legislation," "The Legislative Procedure Manual," and "An Annotated Guide to the Daily File," at

Sacramento Resources
Call Sacramento for further unpublished sources:
The State Archives Legislative Resources ((916) 653-2246) makes available to the public many legislative resource materials. Detailed records are available at the Archives and include: The Governor's Chaptered Bill File, 1943 - 2003; Legislative Committee Records, 1940 - current; Author’s Bill Files, 1950 - date; and Agency Legislative Records, various dates. The State Archives is located in Sacramento and for $0.25 per page, they will photocopy and send all of the information available in their files for a particular bill.

The Chief Clerk of the State Assembly ((916) 319-2856) has all the bill analyses from 1994 to the current session. The Assembly File Analysis is a nonpartisan analysis of each bill. (See number 4, above, for information on earlier Analyses available at Hastings.)

The California State Library is the main depository for legislative and executive branch publications distributed to libraries. You can search the California State Library's collections by clicking on the Catalog tab on the Library's homepage.

Pay Someone to Do the Legislative History Search for You
There are several commercial services that research and compile California Legislative Histories including Legislative Intent Service, Woodland, CA (800) 666-1917; Legislative Research and Intent, Sacramento, CA (800) 530-7613; and Legislative History and Intent, Berkeley, CA (888) 676-1947 & Sacramento, CA (530) 750-2187. These services vary in price and can be quite expensive.

Free Offer for Hastings Law Students and Faculty
UC Hastings Law faculty and students can get free legislative history documents from the Legislative Research and Intent (LRI) online store.  To get free access to this collection, contact one of the Hastings law librarians to complete the request form.  There are four categories of accepted use for law school students and law school professors: (1) law review articles, (2) pro bono or clinical projects, (3) research papers, and (4) talks and lectures. 

[This research guide was last updated on 10/18/13 by Hilary Hardcastle.]

Subject Specialist
Picture: Hilary Hardcastle

Hilary Hardcastle
Head of Reference Services
Tel: 565-4792

Encore Catalog Search

The Hastings Encore Catalog is our search engine to find books and journals in the Hastings Law Library; articles and journals on HeinOnline, ProQuest Central, Oxford Journals Online and PubMed Central; as well as materials found in libraries around the world via Worldcat.

Video Tutorial
Watch our 4-minute video tutorial on finding California Legislative History Materials Online

Most Important Documents
I. Previous Versions of a Bill
1993-current: California Legislative Information
1963 to 2004: Micrographics room, cabinets #21-22

II. Committee/Floor Analyses

1993-current: California Legislative Information
1975-2002: Micrographics room, cabinet #22

III. Governor's Chaptered Bill Files

1943-2010: Micrographics room, cabinet #47