HeinOnline's Tip of the Week: Are you looking for the legislative history of a bill?

Are you trying to determine the legislative history of the Consumer Product Safety Act or the Investment Advisors Act of 1940? HeinOnline offers you two sources for compiled legislative histories, both of which can be found in the U.S. Federal Legislative History library. The first source is Nancy P. Johnson’s Sources of Compiled Legislative History Database. We transformed Johnson’s print publication into a searchable database, making it easy for you to search for a compilation by public law number, public law name or popular name. Secondly, HeinOnline contains more than 85 full-text legislative histories.

Let’s take a look at an example to illustrate how to find the legislative history of a bill. We want to find the compiled legislative history for the Administrative Procedure Act. To do this, open the U.S. Federal Legislative History Library in HeinOnline.

Once you open the library, you will see the collection home page. This page displays both of the resources we mentioned earlier which include a link to the database and a link to the 85+ full-text compilations.

When beginning your search for a legislative history, we suggest always browsing or searching the Sources of Compiled Legislative History Database first. Why? If HeinOnline contains the full text of the legislative history you are searching for, we will link you directly from the database to the full-text. Therefore, click on "Sources of Compiled Legislative History Database".

When you click on this, you will be presented with 2 different browsing options. You can browse by Congress or you can browse by a list of public laws. No matter which browse option you choose, we will provide you with a link to the compilation in the database as well as a link to the statute.
We also allow you to search across the entire database. To do this, click on the Search tab in the top left hand corner. Then click on "Search Sources of Compiled Legislation".

This will bring up a customized search screen that will allow you to search by Bill Number, Congress, Related Document Author, Related Document Date or Title, Popular Name of a Public Law, Public Law Number, or the Title of a Public Law.

In our example, we want to find the Administrative Procedure Act, public law number 79-404. To do this, enter Administrative Procedure Act into the first search box, click on phrase, and select Popular Name of Public Law from the drop down menu. Then click search.

This will return 1 result with a direct link to the compilation in the database.

NOTE: We also could have inserted the public law number, 79-404, and selected Public Law Number from the drop down and clicked search. Both would return the same result.

Click on the Public Law Number to view the database entry. Every database entry will begin by displaying the Public Law Number, Bill Number, and a link to the Statute. Followed by this information, you will find a list of other relevant legislative documents that make up the history of the public law. In this case, we see several references to law review articles that discuss the Administrative Procedure Act. If the article is available in HeinOnline, the Reference line will appear as a hot link allowing you to access the full text of the article.

We also see an entry that begins with "Set Title" indicating that there is a full-text compiled legislative history for this public law. This also appears as a hot link and indicates that the full text of the compiled legislative history is available in HeinOnline. If you click on "Administrative Procedure Act" it will open the full-text as it is available in HeinOnline. If the full-text is not available in HeinOnline, the name will not appear as a link. We will however still display it to provide you with full reference information.

If you try searching the database and cannot find the public law that you are looking for, then you can try finding it in HeinOnline’s 85+ full-text legislative histories. To do this, click on the Resources tab and select U.S. Federal Legislative History Title Collection under the Browse options. All titles are arranged alphabetically allowing you to quickly browse and determine if the public law you are looking for is included in our collection of 85+ full-text compilations.

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