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Basic Legal Research

Researching Illinois Legislative History

The best evidence for Illinois legislative history is the House and Senate floor debates. All debates back to 1971 are now available online at www.ilga.gov.  (Debates were not transcribed prior to 1971.) However, not all of the finding tools may be available online for all dates. This guide walks you through how to find the text of House and Senate floor debates online and in print and microfiche formats.

Step 1: Determine which Public Act added the language in which you are interested

  • Online:  use IL-ST-ANN in Westlaw. 
  • Print:  see the historical & statutory notes in West's Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated,  KFI 1230 1993 A4.

Step 2: Determine the original bill number of the Public Act

  • Online:  at the General Assembly Web site, www.ilga.gov.
    • For acts prior to the 94th General Assembly (2003-2004) use the link to the Public Act to Bill Number Conversion Table for that General Assembly.
  • Print:  Laws of Illinois, KFI 1225 A24.
    • For recent Public Acts (less than one year old), try looking in the Legislative Service pamphlets shelved at the end of both annotated code sets:
      • Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated (KFI 1230 1993 A4) or 
      • Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated ("Michie")(KFI 1230 1993 A42).

Step 3: Look up the bill number in the Legislative Synopsis & Digest (LSD)

The Legislative Synopsis & Digest (LSD) will tell you everything that has happened to the bill, what amendments were proposed and what those amendments said. Use the LSD to determine the dates of relevant debates (see the box at the bottom of this column, Readings relevant to legislative history).

  • Print: For General Assemblies prior to the 90th (1997), use the LSD print set at KFI 1215 I35.
  • Online: From the 90th General Assembly on (1997-) the LSD is available online at www.ilga.gov:
    • Click "Public Acts."
    • Click "Public Acts/Leg. From Previous General Assemblies."
    • Select the relevant General Assembly and click "Go!"
    • Under the Legislation & Laws section, click "Listing."
    • Select the bill number range for your bill.
    • Select the bill.  You will be shown a page with the same information as in the print LSD. (Note: for older sessions the page layout may be inconsistent. You may need to click on links labeled "Bill Status" and/or "View All Actions" to see the full information.)

Step 4: Locate the text of the relevant debates

  • Online:  Some LSD entries provide direct links to the relevant debate transcriptions.
    • If a direct link is not provided, look under the Transcripts links for that General Assembly. Search by date to see if the debate is available online. 
    • Important: Look for your debates in BOTH houses because information from both chambers may be relevant (see the tab at the top of the page, Readings relevant to legislative history).
  • Microfiche:  Microfiche is kept in the South Wing (to your left as you enter the South Wing from the main lobby).
    1. Look up your bill in The Index to the Transcripts of the House Debates and/or The Index to the Transcripts of the Senate Debates. They are in black folders/binders on top of the filing cabinets against the back wall.
    2. Important: Look up your bill in BOTH indices because information from both chambers may be relevant (see the tab at the top of the page, Readings relevant to legislative history).
      • Note: If your bill is prior to 1982, you will need to look for the Legislative Day instead of the actual date.
    3. Go to microfiche drawers nos. 86 & 87 (near the bottom). The drawers are organized by General Assembly and divided into sections (e.g., House Debates, Senate Debates). Pull the relevant packet(s) of fiche for your date/Legislative Day.
    4. Take the microfiche packet to the reader/printer. Pull out the fiche containing your date and put it into the reader (usually face down). Find the page numbers you looked up in the indices, then look for information concerning the legislative intent behind your bill.
    5. Follow instructions posted at the microfiche reader for printing and saving copies.
       
  • If you are researching recent legislation the text of debates may not yet be available online. Contact the Illinois House and Senate Transcribing offices to obtain copies of debates ($.50 per page or $5 per audio CD):
    • House Transcribing Office: (217) 782-1038
    • Senate Transcribing Office: (217) 782-6653
  • Audio recordings of House Committee meetings are also available from 1975 onwards from the House Committee Clerk, (217) 782-8100 ($5.00 per cassette or CD).
  • Senate Committees do not record or transcribe their meetings.

Events during the Passage of a Bill in Illinois

The table below is an overview of the path a bill takes through the Illinois General Assembly. All of the following refer to House Bill 1 (H.B. 1).

  • If a bill begins in the House, it retains its House bill number even when it moves to the Senate.
  • Conversely, if a bill begins in the Senate, it retains its Senate bill number when it moves to the House.
Event Documentation Generated
House:  
First Reading H.B. 1 is introduced. (No debate, just a reading of the Bill.)
Reported out of Committee H.B. 1 as reported.1
Second Reading Amendments debated on the House floor.2
Third Reading Floor debates occur on the whole bill.2
Transmittal to Senate H.B. 1 as engrossed in the House.
Senate:  
First Reading H.B. 1 as engrossed in the House. (No debate, just a reading of the Bill.)
Reported out of Committee H.B. 1 as reported in the Senate. 3
Second Reading Amendments debated on the Senate floor. 2
Third Reading Floor debates occur on the whole bill. 2
If the Senate amended H.B. 1:  
Transmittal to the House H.B. 1 as engrossed in the Senate.
House Concurrence to Senate Amendments House floor debates on Senate amendments.2
If House Nonconcurs to Senate Amendments H.B. 1 as reported out of Conference Committee. House and Senate floor debates on conference report.2
H.B. 1 sent to the Governor: H.B. 1 as enrolled.
If Governor signs H.B. 1 No documentation generated.
If Governor issues amendatory or total veto Governor's Veto Message; House & Senate floor debates on the Governor's recommendations. 2

 

1. Recordings of House Committee meetings available 1975-date. See 'How to find the text of House & Senate floor debates' under the Home tab at the top of the page.

2. Transcripts of House & Senate floor debates available 1971-date. See 'How to find the text of House & Senate floor debates' under the Home tab at the top of the page.

3. There are no recordings or transcripts available for Senate Committee meetings.

Which Readings are Relevant to Illinois Legislative History?

  • First readings (debates) are not important.
     
  • Second readings are only important if the language in which you are interested came from an amendment to the bill after it was introduced in the House or Senate. Then the second reading in the chamber in which the amendment was introduced is relevant -- but only in the chamber in which the amendment was introduced.
     
  • The third reading is generally relevant from both chambers unless only an amendment from the second chamber to consider the bill is of interest. In that case, the third reading in the chamber of origin would be irrelevant.
     
  • If a bill is introduced and passes through the first chamber without any changes, then moves on to the second chamber and is amended, the concurrence in the first chamber to the second chamber's amendment is also relevant (in addition to the second and third Readings in the second chamber).

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