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California Legislative History

Tips for effectively researching history and analysis of California laws and statutes

Getting Started

The typical legislative history researcher has a section from the California Code and seeks to determine the legislative intent behind it. Use either of the two California annotated codes to begin this process: West’s Annotated California Codes (LRC California KFC 30 .W4 or on Westlaw) or Deering’s California Codes Annotated (LRC California KFC 30 .D4 or on Lexis). Three numbers are needed to begin compiling a statute’s legislative history: 

  1. The year the statute was enacted.
  2. The chronological numerical designation (Chapter) assigned to the newly-enacted statute.
  3. The bill number assigned while moving through the Legislature.

Example: Cal. Civ. Code §1946.1, immediately following the text of the statute is this parenthetical: 

California Legislative History - Code Example

Record that information, as it is the cornerstone of your research. While you are in the annotated codes, look for Historical and Statutory Notes (if included), and references to Law Revision Commission Reports, committee reports and law review articles pertaining to its legislative history. You may want to check the other annotated code, as the coverage is different between Deering’s and West’s. 

For Statutes enacted prior to 1993, the bill number is not provided in the annotated statutes. 

  • 1967-1992: Use the Summary Digest to obtain the bill number and author.
  • Prior to 1967: Use the Table of Contents contained in the first volume for each year to locate the Table of Laws Enacted, and find your chapter number. The bill number will be listed next to it.

Now that you have obtained this information, you need to use it to find the text of the bill itself along with any analysis – this is likely the most important and most useful aspect of legislative history that may shed light on intent. Your sources for bill text and analysis differ depending on when the bill was chaptered: 1999-present, 1993-98, or pre-1993.