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How to Research an Illinois Legislative History


1. In order to find the legislative history for an Illinois statute, it is necessary to first find the public act number which created or amended the statute. The public act numbers appear at the end of the text of the statute (ie. P.A. 87-879). Use of the term "public act" began with the 76th General Assembly (1969-70). Prior to that time laws are cited using the year and page reference to the Laws of Illinois (ie. L. 1921, p. 42).

2. Once you have found the public act number, locate the public act in the Laws of Illinois which are shelved to the left of the annotated statutes next to the reference desk. This will give you the House Bill or Senate Bill number. (Note: Sometimes the text of the public act has a purpose or findings statement not found in the statute's text.)

3. It might be a good idea to compare the text of the original bill with the text of the public act to see what changes occurred when the bill was passed in the legislature. We have the bills on microfiche and you can ask at the reference desk to find out where they are kept.

4. To get a summary of actions taken by the legislature on the bill as well as the dates those actions were carried out, consult the Legislative Synopsis and Digest shelved next to the Laws of Illinois. This set also tells you the sponsors, the date it was signed by the Governor, the public act number, and the date the law went into effect. The amendments to the bill are published in the House Journal and Senate Journal shelved next to the Legislative Synopsis and Digest.

5. Locate the Index to Transcripts of House Debates and Index to Transcripts of Senate Debates shelved above the Laws of Illinois to get the indexes for the general assembly of the bill. Find the bill number in each volume.

6. Make a note of the dates and pages the bill was discussed in each chamber. Go to the microfiche cabinets and pull the corresponding microfiche (fiche are arranged by general assembly). Ask the reference librarian for assistance, if you need it.

7. Take the microfiche to the reader/printer located underneath the stairs at the southeast corner of the library (the same side of the library as the microfiche cabinets). Place the fiche face down on the reader/printer glass and locate the pages you need. You'll notice that the text of the bill is not provided. At the first reading, the bill is read into the chamber's record. However, second and third readings may produce debate of the bill.

8. The Supreme Court Library has both the House and Senate debates for the 77th through the General Assembly preceding the current one and their corresponding indexes.

9. Legislative debates, first required by the 1970 Constitution, were not regularly produced until the 77th General Assembly (Oct. 1971).

Other Related Information

Committee reports -- When bills are introduced, they are assigned to a committee according to subject. The committee will then submit its findings (a recommendation of do or do not pass) to the respective chamber. These reports are generally not made available.

Audiotapes for House committee meetings held since 1980 can be ordered by calling 782-8100. Tapes cost $5 each and can be sent to you with an invoice if you give the Clerk's office the bill and/or public act number with your mailing address. The Senate is not required and does not make available a record of committee hearings.

Governors' comments -- Messages and statements about a law, whether it's an amendatory veto or veto message, appear in the Journals. This might be helpful for similar bills introduced in the preceding legislative session that did not survive the Gubernatorial veto.

The Index Department of the Illinois Secretary of State will compile legislative histories for the general public for a fee. Check with the Index Department at 782-7017 for details.

Other Sources

Law review articles -- It's possible that research has already been published about the bill. Citations for law reviews might appear in the annotated versions of the Illinois statutes (West and Michie) or check the LegalTrac CD-ROM in the north balcony of the library.

Newspaper articles -- There may have been newspaper coverage of controversial legislation around the time that it was being considered by the legislature.

Telephone numbers:

Secretary of State, Index Department     782-7017
Illinois Senate
Secretary of the Senate 782-5715
Bill Room 782-9778
Senate Transcribing 782-6653
Illinois House of Representatives
Clerk's Office 782-8223
Bill Room 782-5799
House Transcribing 782-4818
Committee Tapes 782-8100