There are two words many legal researchers either love or fear: “legislative history.”
This post is not written to discuss the value or need for legislative histories, but rather to point readers to a great guide by the Legislative Reference Bureau.
The process of conducting a legislative history, depending on the age and length of a statute, can be time consuming. There are several steps that should be completed in order to conduct a thorough legislative history.
The LRB recently released an updated Wisconsin Brief titled, “Researching Legislative History in Wisconsin.” Brief 13-8 is a 28-page document detailing the six major steps when researching the legislation of a Wisconsin statute.
The guidance document is clearly written, includes several images for visual guidance, and follows a logical sequence.
The authors also point out some limitations when conducting a legislative history in the state of Wisconsin. For example, items commonly reviewed when conducting a federal legislative history, such as formal standing committee reports, do not necessarily have a Wisconsin counterpart.
I am not familiar with what items are made available to the public in other states, but truly appreciate the LRB and its guidance documents.