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Cornell Library at Vermont Law & Graduate School

Legislative History Research (Federal): Legislative History Document Types

Committee Reports

The publications by which committees report to the Senate or House as a whole concerning the findings of their hearings and deliberations on bills reported out of committee. Reports usually include the text of the bill, analysis of each section, explanation of the committee's reasoning on every significant point, as well as recommendations and other information related to the enactment of the bill. Often considered the most authoritative of the legislative history documents. 

Hearings

When bills are introduced, they are referred to the committee having jurisdiction over that area of legislation. Often, the committee will hold public hearings to gather opinions and information regarding the legislation. Many witnesses prepare valuable and well-documented presentations, including analysis from uniquely informed perspectives.

Hearing documents include:

  • prepared witness statements provided to the committee before the hearing, and
  • transcripts of questioning and witness testimony.

Debate

Transcripts of House and Senate floor debate by legislators on specific bills.

Committee Prints

Prepared by committee staff, agency specialists or private consultants. Their purpose is to provide background information to committees concerning issues that may become the focus of legislative attention and to assist policy formulation. 

Bills

Proposed legislation by the House or Senate. Usually, several versions of a bill are generated as it works its way through the legislative process.

 

Public Laws

Enacted bills.

Signing Statements

Statements issued by the President which sometimes accompany bill signings. Since the President is not a member of the legislative body, a presidential signing statement is considered very indirect evidence of intent at best.

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