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Law Resources - State Library of Pennsylvania

This guide is to help users find the wealth of resources available through the State Library of Pennsylvania

How Legislation is Made

The nonprofit Pennsylvania Cable News (PCN) network partnered with the Parliamentarians of the Pennsylvania House and Senate to walk through the steps of how an idea moves from being a bill to a law in this 15 minute tutorial video

Screenshot of "How a Bill becomes a Law" from PCN news network

Trying to understand how a bill becomes a law? The US Congress has an extensive collection of video and text resources to learn about the process. Prefer video? The Schoolhouse Rock video below is a classic, catchy way to understand the basics of the American legislative process. Interested in something a little more recent? Try the second video below: How a Bill Becomes a Law: Crash Course Government and Politics #9

Compiling a Legislative History

According to Black's Law Dictionary, a legislative history is the "proceedings leading to the enactment of a statute, including hearings, committee reports, and floor debates. Legislative history is sometimes recorded so that it can later be used to aid in or influence interpretations of the statute". From 1975 to today, Pennsylvania legislation and their histories are available on the Pennsylvania General Assembly's website. First locate an enacted bill and then click on "histories".

Prior to 1975, compiling legislative histories requires more work with print sources. Follow these steps from the Widener School of Law

The steps for completing a legislative history in Pennsylvania prior to 1975 legislation is generally:

  1. Identify the Act Number: A citation with an Act number is typically found immediately after each section in Purdon's.
  2. Identify the Bill Number: For laws passed in 1965, going forward, the bill number is printed on the first page of each Act in the Laws of Pennsylvania. Before 1965, a bill number can be found in the bill index pages of the House and Senate Histories.
  3. Use the Bill Number to locate bill history.
  4. Consult the House or Senate histories for the year of your legislation to find a sequential listing of the history for your act and look for a page reference to the House or Senate Journal.
  5. Locate Remarks in House or Senate Journal: Consult the House or Senate Journal for the year of your legislation and find the page referenced.

Compiling a Federal Legislative History? Use this detailed beginner's guide from the Library of Congress to walk you through the process.

Legislative Process Resources