The Pennsylvania State Archives & Legislative Histories


Looking for legislative history material for an older act in Pennsylvania?  As described in our Pennsylvania Legislative History Research Guide, a good starting point includes the House and Senate Journals.  These may contain speeches or debate from the House or Senate Floor relevant to your bill. Don't forget to take a look at our Pennsylvania Legislative Histories database first. We have pulled this debate together for select bills. You can also try calling the House of Representatives Archives (717.783.3866) and the Senate Library (717.787.6120) to determine whether they have any material, like Committee Reports, in their collections. If  you want to dig for additional information, try the Pennsylvania State Archives.

The Pennsylvania State Archives was created in 1903 and its mission is "to acquire, preserve and make available for study the permanently-valuable public records of the Commonwealth". As part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), the Archives cares for important state documents such as William Penn's Charter, the document that gave Penn the legal right to found the Commonwealth. The approximately 250,000,000 documents available at the Archives also include records related to the General Assembly. The majority of this material is from before 1970, but coverage varies greatly depending on document type. 

Content includes records of select Committees (see Records of the Senate State Government Committee, for example), House Committee Minutes, and House Committee Hearing Transcripts, Testimony and Reports. The collection also has a separate Senate File and House File. The documents in the Files are grouped chronologically and may contain reports or other legislative history documents.

Though the Archives has a limited research and copy option for those who cannot travel to Harrisburg (see Pennsylvania State Archives brochure), this type of research will most likely require a trip to Harrisburg.  For example, the Senate File and House File contain quite a bit of content and would have to be gone through in person to check for relevant information. If you have questions about content or access, contact the Archives at (717.783.3281).

Need help starting a legislative history and finding access to the Journals?  Check out our Legislative History Research Guide. Have additional questions?  Ask us!


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