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Northern Illinois University
College of Law
David C. Shapiro Memorial Law Library

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 from the Illinois General Assembly.  (Debates were not transcribed prior to 1971.) However, not all of the finding tools may be available online for all dates. The current General Assembly's floor debates are searchable or browsable separately by House and Senate, while all previous transcripts can be found by assembly.

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

  • Online:  use IL-ST-ANN in Westlaw (restricted to College of Law students and faculty)
  • 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: through the sites for the current General Assembly or for previous General Assemblies.
    • For acts prior to the 94th General Assembly (2003-2004) there will be a link to the Public Act to Bill Number Conversion Table on the page 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 tab at the side of the page, Readings relevant to legislative history).

  • Print: For General Assemblies prior to the 77th (1971-72), use the LSD print set at KFI 1215 I35.
  • Online: From the 77th General Assembly on (1971-), the LSD is available online.
    • First, 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 side 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 side 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.

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