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Finding Pennsylvania Legislative Histories

Legislative histories, or "the proceedings leading to the enactment of a statute, including hearings, committee reports, and floor debates" (Legislative History, Black's Law Dictionary, 11th ed. 2019), can help researchers understand the legislative intent of a particular statute. In Pennsylvania, the materials that typically make up a legislative history include the remarks and debate recorded in the Pennsylvania House and Senate Journals. Additional information may be available in committee reports and hearings and in Joint State Government Commission Reports.

Librarians at Jenkins compile Pennsylvania legislative histories upon request. The histories we have already compiled are available to our members on our Pennsylvania Legislative Histories database. This database includes over 1,300 histories. The oldest history is Act 136 from 1836, "An Act Relating to Reference and Arbitration". The most recent history is the Act 109 from 2012, "An Act Amending 'The Minimum Wage Act of 1968'". These histories can be searched by year, act number, PL (Pamphlet Law) number, bill number, and short title name. Full text searching is also available. Full text search results may vary, primarily for histories compiled on acts that were passed prior to 1993. If the expected results are not found, try searching by other criteria or contact us. It may be a history we have not compiled yet.

The histories compiled at Jenkins only include the remarks and debates found in the House and Senate Journals. Additional materials, like committee reports and hearings, also may be helpful in determining the legislative intent of an act. For a recent report, try contacting the Senate or House committee directly. Some committee documents may be available on the General Assembly's website: Committee Transcripts and Reports. For older reports, try reaching out to the Senate Library or House Archives. The Pennsylvania State Archives may also be helpful, especially if you are looking for a report from prior to 1970. Their General Assembly collection includes documents from both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) also issues reports that may be relevant to proposed or enacted legislation. The JSGC is a non-partisan research organization that serves the Pennsylvania legislature. Its staff is experienced in statistical analysis, survey methods, report writing, making policy recommendations, and drafting legislation. Select reports related to legislation may be available on their website. For additional reports contact the JSGC directly.

Many of the materials you need to compile a legislative history are available online from the Pennsylvania General Assembly's website. We provide detailed instructions on how to compile a legislative history on our Pennsylvania Legislative History research guide. Please note that due to the coverage of electronic resources, debate in the House and Senate Journals can only be easily pulled together online for acts passed after 1975.

Have more questions about compiling a Pennsylvania legislative history? Ask us!

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Searching for legislative intent? Check out our Pennsylvania Legislative Histories Collection.