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California Legislative History: Steps to Finding California Legislative Documents

Compiling a California legislative history can be time-consuming. This Guide is intended to help you through the process of examining legislative intent by taking you step-by-step through the sources of CA legislative intent in our library and online.

Guide Outline

    1. Annotated Codes
      1. Chapter law & bill number
      2. Review citations
    2. Statutes and Amendments to the Codes
      1. Bill number
      2. Legislative Counsel’s Digest
    3. Senate Final History and Assembly Final History
    4. Bill Analyses
      1. Assembly File Analysis
      2. Committee and floor analyses 
      3. Senate Committee on Judiciary. Agenda
    5. Bill Text Amendments
    6. Hearings and Reports
      1. UCLA Library Catalog
      2. California Law Revision Commission
      3. California State publications
      4. Senate and Assembly Journals 
    7. Other Useful Sources
      1. State Assembly Chief Clerk Archives
      2. Pacific Law Journal 
      3. CEB Review of Selected Code Legislation 
      4. California Judicial Council Report 
      5. California Journal
      6. Cases and law reviews
      7. Newspaper articles


Finding California legislative intent is almost always a do-it-yourself process; very little is already compiled.  However, you might wish to check UCLA’s catalogs and periodical indexes (by name of act or topic) to see whether there are any materials which include an already-compiled legislative history. 

Compiling a California legislative history can be a time-consuming process. This Guide is intended to take you through all possible sources of legislative intent found in the UCLA Law Library. Following all the steps listed will result in a comprehensive examination of legislative intent. If time or resources are limited, consider completing only Steps 1, 2, 4 and 7 which are generally the richest sources of legislative intent. And visit LegInfo ( for material beginning in 1999, the old site ( for material beginning in 1993, and the Assembly Clerk Archive ( for more historical information dating back to 1849.

  1. Locate Your Section in the Annotated Codes
  2. Check the Statutes and Amendments to the Codes
  3. Check the Senate Final History and Assembly Final History
  4. Look for Bill Analyses
  5. Look at Bill Text Amendments
  6. Look for Hearings and Reports
  7. Check Other Useful Sources Listed Here

7 steps to compiling a California legislative history

#1: Locate your Section in the Annotated Codes 

  1. Find the chapter law citation(s) and bill number(s) Both West’s California Codes Annotated and Deering’s Annotated California Codes include historical notes which give citations to the chapter laws enacting and amending each section (e.g. Stats. 1987, c. 881). In addition, both West’s and Deering’s began adding bill numbers to statutes passed or amended in recent years. The bill number will be preceded by either A.B. (Assembly Bill) or S.B. (Senate Bill). Note these numbers and their years of enactment as you will need them to locate other legislative history documents. If the bill number is not indicated in the annotated codes, see Step #2(A) in the box below.

    Remember that a code section may have been amended several times and that the legislative history of each amending law must be traced separately.
  2. Review citations. Look for citations to California Attorney General Opinions, Legislative Counsel Opinions, Law Revision Reports, committee reports, and law review articles discussing the statute.  It is a good idea to check both annotated codes since one publisher will sometimes provide information not provided by the other.
Library: West's Annotated California Codes (KFC30.5 .W4) (Level 2)
Deering's California Codes Annotated (KFC30.5 .D4) (Level 2)
Westlaw: In the search box on the main page, type the citation to your California code section. And click Search.
Lexis: In the search box on the main page, type the citation to your California code section. And click Search.

Step #2 Check the Statutes and Amendments to the Codes

  1. Locate the bill number

    If the bill number is not included in the historical notes to your Code section, look up your chapter number in either the Table of Laws Enacted (vol. 1), or the Summary Digest (last volume) of the Statutes and Amendments to the Codes for the session in which your legislation was enacted.  The bill number will be preceded by either A.B. (Assembly Bill) or S.B. (Senate Bill).
  2. Locate the Legislative Counsel’s Digest

    The Legislative Counsel prepares a short synopsis or analysis of every bill as it is introduced or amended predicting the effect of the bill on existing law.  This precedes the text of the published bill and its chaptered version and is also printed in the Summary Digest (last volume) of the Statutes and Amendments to the Codes. For recent legislation you must use the Deering’s Advance Legislative Service or West’s California Legislative Service for enacted legislation or the California statutes provided by the Legislative Counsel via the Internet.

    Statutes and Amendments to the Codes:  
    Library: KFC 25 (Level 2)
    (1993-94 session forward)
    (1850 forward)

    Advance Legislative Services

    Library: Deering's KFC 30.5 and West's KFC 30.5 (Reference Reading Room and Level 2)
    Lexis: In the search box on the main page, type California Advance Legislative Service. 
    Westlaw: Select Proposed & Enacted Legislation, and then California. From there you can choose current Session Laws or Bills, or on the side bar for Tools & Resources, you can choose Historical Session Laws or Historical Bills.

Step #3 Check the Senate Final History and Assembly Final History

Using the year and bill number of your legislation, look up the bill’s history to find out (a) who introduced the bill; (b) to what committee(s) it was referred; and (c) whether or not hearings were scheduled.

Library: KFC 14 L43a & KFC 14 L43s (Level 2)
(not available for current and immediately previous sessions)
LexisNexis: CAL;CATRCK database (current session);
LEGIS;TRCKyy (where yy is the desired year, e.g. LEGIS;TRCK90, for 1990 tracking) (1987 – previous session; includes all states)

CA-BILLTRK  database (current session); BILLTRK-OLD (1991 – previous session; includes federal and all states);
CA-LH-REP (includes complete Assembly and Senate bill histories 1993-94 session forward)

Internet: (1993-94 session forward)  (1881 forward)

Step #4 Look for Bill Analyses

Use the year and bill number to find a legislative analysis of your bill. Committee consultants and the staff of the Assembly Office of Research work together to prepare an analysis of each bill as it passes through the legislative process.  The content of the analysis includes the purpose of the bill, some background information, fiscal impact, and, in the case of committee analyses, support for and opposition to the bill.

  1. Assembly File Analysis (1975-present).  This is the final floor version of the analysis and reflects the bill in the form in which it is enacted.
    Library: Microfiche KFC 6 A87 (Microform Room - Level 1)
    Not available for current and immediately previous sessions.
  2. Committee and floor analyses 
    LexisNexis: LEGIS;CACOMM (1991 - current session)
    Westlaw:  CCA database (committee analyses, current session);
    CCA-OLD (committee analyses, 1991 –  2004)
    CA-LH-REP (includes committee and floor analyses, 1993-94 session forward)
    (1993-94 session forward)
  3. California. Senate Committee on Judiciary. Agenda (1989/90 – 1991/2). The UCLA Law Library has selective bill analyses for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in print.
    Library:   KFC 10.7 J83 S45 (Request from SRLF)  

Step #5 Look at Bill Text Amendments

Read the bill in all its versions.  Sometimes it is possible to infer what the Legislature intended from changes in the language of the bill.

Library:  Microfiche KFC 6 (Microform Room)
(from 1963; not available for current and immediately previous sessions)
LexisNexis: CAL;CABILL or CAL;CATEXT (current session);
LEGIS;TEXTyy (where yy is the desired year, e.g., LEGIS;TEXT91, for 1991 bills) (1991 – previous session; includes all states)
Westlaw:  CA-BILLS database (current session); BILLTXT-OLD (1991 – previous session; includes all states)
Internet:  (1993-94 session forward)

Step #6 Look for Hearings and Reports

Use the following tools to locate any published hearings or reports related to your bill:

  1. Search the UCLA Library Catalog using the name of the appropriate legislative committee and keywords from the title.  You may also limit the search to a year or range of years (use the date limit pull down menu on the bottom of the screen).

    If you don’t find anything using the UCLA Library Catalog, you may want to check MELVYL to see whether another library in the UC system has acquired a particular hearing or report.
  2. California Law Revision Commission, Reports, Recommendations and Studies,(1957-) The charge of the Law Revision Commission is to examine the law of California for defects, to consider proposed uniform laws, and to recommend changes to California law.  Only the recommendations of the Commission are recognized as legislative intent.  These are cited by the Deering’s and West’s Annotated Codes.  In older codes, citations are sometimes spotty and mislabeled.  Often the Commission’s annual reports will include legislative committee reports on legislation which the Commission has recommended.

    California Code Commission
     (1929-53).  The predecessor of the California Law Revision Commission also published reports, notes, and drafts of codes.
    Library: KFC 27 (Level 2)

  3. California State publications
    • California State Legislature. Joint Publications Catalog, (1984-1990). This catalog lists the reports and hearing transcripts available from the Joint Publications Office of the California Legislature. Organized by committee name.
      Library: KFC 20 R47 (Reference Reading Room)
    • California Legislature.  State Senate Publications Office Catalogue, (1995-2003).  Lists titles, including hearing transcripts and reports available from the Senate Publications Office. 
      Library: KFC 20 S46 (Reference Reading Room)
    • Hearings and Reports of the Committees of the California Legislature, (1961-1984). These are indexed by year and committee name.  In some sessions, reports and transcripts of hearings are listed in separate sections.
      Library: KFC 20 R46 (Reference Reading Room)
    • California State Publications, (1945 - present).  Not as comprehensive as the first two in this list.
      Library: Z 1223.5 C2 (Level A) (1945 - 2003)
      Internet: (2001 - present)
    • California Interim Legislative Committees and Reports, (1937-73). Lists interim legislative committee reports.
      Library: JK 8771 C36a (Level A)
  4. Senate and Assembly Journals  
    Check the bill and topical indexes for the appropriate session for communications, reports, or Legislative Counsel opinions.  Neither Journal is a verbatim report of the proceedings and debates of Senate or Assembly action, but is mainly a record of proceedings.  You must be creative in using the index to the Journal (be sure to look under the entry "reports").  In the Assembly Journal you might locate Legislative Counsel opinions under the entry "Legislative Counsel" or under the counsel’s name.  Recent West’s or Deering’s Codes will often cite to reports and Legislative Counsel opinions when published in the Journals.
    Library: KFC 14 L41 (Level 2) (includes Senate: 1849/1850-1999/2002,2003/2004 and Assembly: 1849/1850-2001/2002,2005/2006-2009/2010,2011/2012)
    Westlaw: CA-LH-JRNLS (includes Assembly Journals from 1995-1996 session forward and Senate Journals from the 2001-2002 session forward).
    Internet: (Assembly Journals from 1849 forward)
  5. Digital Democracy (CalPoly San Luis Obisbo Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy)
    Launched in May 2015, the "new online platform features a searchable database of California state legislative committees hearings, allowing the user to search videos by keyword, topic, speaker or date. Digital Democracy is a first of its kind tool because it will transcribe all legislative hearing videos and will make the transcriptions available to users in their searchable entirety. These data rich transcripts represent an entirely new data set that is currently unavailable to the public. Digital Democracy has been deployed as a one year beta to provide searchable video files of available California state committee hearings for the 2015 legislative year."

Step #7 Check Other Useful Sources Listed Here

  1. California State Assembly Chief Clerk. Legislative Document Archives (1849-2005 generally; coverage varies with each publication) Contains California State Assembly Journals through the present date, California State Assembly and Senate Final Histories and Indexes (including some Tables of Sections Affected) through 2006, and Statutes and Amendments to the Codes (including Tables of Laws Enacted) through 1996.

  2. Pacific Law Journal (1970-Summer 1997), McGeorge Law Review (Fall 1997 -  ). Check the Spring issue (green pages) of the year following enactment for the Annual Review of Selected California Legislation.
    Library: K 16 A25; Current year on Reserve
    LexisNexis CAL;MCGLR or LAWREV;MCGLR (from Spring 1995)
    Westlaw MCGLR database (selected coverage from 1983; full from 1994)
  3. CEB Review of Selected Code Legislation (Biennial from 1955-65; annual from 1967-69)
    Library: State Bar Journal (for 1956-1965 reviews):
    K 3 .A4365 (Level 1) 
    The 1955, 1967, 1968, 1969 reviews were published separately:  KFC 20 A73 R49 (Level 2)
  4. California Judicial Council. Report (1929-65, biennial; 1967- ,  annual) As the chief administrative body for California courts, the Council occasionally provides analysis of selected proposed legislation indicating the impact of the legislation on the court system. These recommendations are not cited in the annotated codes.  Annual Reports from 1998 to the present are available on the Internet.
    Library: KFC 951 A152 (Level 2) KFC 951 .A15 C35 (titled Annual Report) (1999-  ) (Level 2)
    Internet: (1998-  )
  5. California Journal, (1970- ).  An independently published journal on California government and politics.
    Library: K 3 A4325; Current year on Reserve
    LexisNexis: LEGIS;CAJRNL or CAL;CAJRNL (from October 1989 – November 2004)
  6. A search of cases and law reviews in LexisNexis or Westlaw (e.g. xxxxx /s legislative intent or legislative history) will sometimes lead you to documents that the courts have considered when ascertaining the legislative intent of a particular topic. 
  7. A search of newspaper articles can often produce useful background material. Tips on searching newspapers generally can be found here:
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