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Pennsylvania Legislative History : Research Steps

PA General Assembly

Committee Reports & Transcripts

Another important component of a statute's legislative history are committee hearing transcripts & Reports.Experts and interested parties often testify in bill hearings before committees and subcommittees in the House and Senate.  Please note that hearings are not held for every bill.

The Committee then generates a report for the larger House or Senate at large, summarizing the testimony and providing the Committee's reasons for recommending approval or other action on the bill. Although the hearings are open to the public, transcripts of these proceedings are not widely available and the committee reports are even more difficult to locate. However, the resources below may offer some limited information. 

Senate:

  • View committee votes, lists of legislation still before a particular standing committee and occasionally hearing transcripts here 
  • Contact the Senate Law Library which maintains records of legislative committee meetings 
  • Calendar of upcoming committee meetings

House:

  • Search database of available House transcripts and committee reports hereSome have audio recordings available as well. 
  • By Committee Name view committee votes, lists of legislation still before a particular standing committee and occasionally hearing transcripts here
  • Calendar of upcoming committee meetings
  • Historical House committee information can be found here

A Note About Compiled Histories

Unless you have a specific legislative history document in mind, save yourself some time and look for a compiled legislative history for your statute first before following the steps below (see the Compiled Histories tab for guidance). The Other Resources tab contains links to books on Pennsylvania legal research which feature chapters on legislative history and can be particularly useful for locating pre-1963 statutory information. 

Step 1: Locate Statute

Step 1: Locate the proper title and code section of the law you are researching in Purdon's Consolidated Statutes or Statutes Annotated either in Print or on Westlaw using either the popular name table or the subject index.

  • Purdon's Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated Reserve & Third Floor (KFP30 1930 .A44)

  • Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated Reserve & Third Floor (KFP 30 1930 .A44)

Step 2: Find Laws of Pennsylvania Citation

Step 2: Note the following information at the end of the statutory code section: Date the law was passed, the page number in the Laws of Pennsylvania and the act number 

      Citation will look like this: 1989, July 10, P.L. 291, No. 50

  • 1989, July 10 = Date passed
  • P.L. = Pamphlet Law (slip law)
  • 291 = Page number in Laws of Pennsylvania
  • No. 50 = Act Number

Step 3: Use Laws of Pennsylvania Citation to Find Act

Step 3: Using the date and page number, locate the correct act in the Laws of Pennsylvania.  

  • Note its house or senate bill number, which were included beginning in 1965.
  • Available:
    • Print: Third Floor (KFP25 . A23) (1700 - most recent calendar year)

Step 4: Locate a Bill History (Debates)

Step 4: Use the bill number and congressional session date to locate a bill history

The histories of the bills are arranged in bill number order. You will find citations to legislative discussion, if the bill was discussed. See "remarks" or "debate" for the date or page number where floor discussion is reported in either the House Legislative Journal or Senate Legislative Journal.

  • History of House Bills and Resolutions (1965 - 1994),  Third Floor (KFP15. P46)
  • History of Senate Bills and Resolutions (1965 - 1996),  Third Floor (KFP15. P46) 
  • Combined History of Senate and House Bills (1995 - 1998) Third Floor (KFP15 .P46

Step 5: Locate House or Senate Journal Entries (Voting Records & Transcripts of Floor Action)

Step 5: Use the citations to the House or Senate Journals found in Step 4 to locate the appropriate journal. Prior to 1965 you must use the indexes in the journals themselves for references to "remarks".

  • Print:
    • [House] Legislative Journal, (1963 - present)  Third Floor (KFP18. P46)  
    • [Senate] Legislative Journal, (1963 - 2005)      Third Floor (KFP19 .P46)
    • Legislative Journal [House & Senate combined] (1911- 1961)  Compact Shelving-Basement (KFP18 .P45) 
    • Legislative Record [House and Senate] (1866 - 1907) Compact Shelving-Basement (KFP18 .P45)
       
  • PA General Assembly:
  • Westlaw: 
  • Lexis:
    • PA State Voting Records (no date given). Voting records only, not text of the journals. Does organize votes by political affiliation and provides individual voting records.

Step 6: Locate Full Text of Original Bill & Subsequent Versions

Step 6: Locate the full text of the House or Senate bill to track changes

  • PA General Assembly Electronic Bill Room (1961 session onward)
    • Also, set up alerts to be notified about legislative activity on a piece of legislation, daily updates on all legislation, or the actions of a particular committee here