"In the construction of a statute the intention of the Legislature is to be pursued, if possible" - California Code of Civil Procedure, section 1859.
Since 1872 when the above statute was enacted, California's courts have increasingly relied on legislative intent when interpreting the state's laws. Also well established is the key role that legislative records play in determining the intent of the State Legislature.
By far the richest and most extensive collection of legislative records are held by the California State Archives. The State Archives is the only repository to which legislative committee records may lawfully be transferred. Although state law does not require individual legislators to deposit their records in the State Archives, more than 300 have chosen to do so.
Lawyers, legal scholars, the Legislature, state government agencies, commercial research services and the courts themselves routinely use the State Archives legislative resources which include:
Legislative Committee Records
Bill Files, c.1960 - date
The most significant source of information on specific measures are bill files which may contain analyses prepared by committee staff, the Legislative Analyst, and state agencies; written testimony; Legislative Counsel's opinions; letters in support and opposition; the text of the bill and amendments; press releases and newspaper clippings; background information; and, occasionally audio recordings of hearings.
Hearing Files, c.1940 - date
Typically, legislative hearings focus on a particular subject although discussion concerning specific legislative bills may also be included. The State Archives has some transcripts of hearings as well as background materials. However, the California Legislature did not (and still does not) transcribe hearings and other daily activities like the U.S. Congress. Consequently, there are many legislative hearings for which no verbatim transcript exists.
Author Bill Files, c.1950 - date
In addition to containing records similar to those found in committee bill files, legislator's bill files may also include correspondence and background material from the bill's original sponsor (state agency, outside organization, or individual), letters in support and opposition to the bill, author's floor and committee statements, and press releases. In some cases, legislators have placed their papers on deposit at the State Archives. Records on deposit are deemed restricted because the donor/depositor has not yet authorized Archives to release the records. Permission of donor/depositor is required for access. Author bill files may typically be viewed without prior permission of the donor/depositor once that legislator has signed a deed of gift transferring ownership to the State Archives
Governor's Chaptered Bill Files, 1943-2018
The Governor's Office maintains files for each legislative bill signed into law (chaptered) or vetoed. These files typically contain analyses prepared by the Legislative Counsel, Attorney General, other constitutional officers, state agencies and the Governor's staff. Also available is correspondence from the bill's author as well as affected organizations and individuals. Vetoed bill files include the text of the Governor's veto message.
Caucus Bill Files, 1973 - date
Democratic and Republican Caucuses in both the Senate and Assembly prepare analyses which reflect their political party's views.
Senate Floor Analyses Bill Files, 1993 - date
This office prepares nonpartisan analyses of bills which come to the Senate Floor for a vote.
Senate and Assembly Video Recordings, 1988 - date
From the Offices of Senate and Assembly Television, Assembly Rules. Formats include U-Matic, VHS, S-VHS and DVD
The State Archives also houses video recordings of selected floor session and committee hearings: Senate (1992 - date) and Assembly (1988-date). State Agency Records, various dates Each legislative session state agencies draft new legislation and prepare analyses of bills which affect their programs.
California Channel Collection (1979-2019, bulk 1993-2019)
Formats include DVD and DVC-Pro.
Material created by the California Channel, which broadcast the proceedings of the legislature to Cable subscribers. Material beings in 1979, with the bulk of the material covering both chambers beginning in 1993. Material does duplicate office of Senate TV and Assembly TV, but also contains original programming. Some earlier material has been converted from its original VHS format.
State Agency Records, various dates
Each legislative session state agencies draft new legislation and prepare analyses of bills which affect their programs.
Statutes of California (1850 - date), Deering's California Codes Annotated, Journals of the Legislature (1850 - date), Final Calendars of Legislative Business/Final Histories (1877 - date), and various subject indexes to laws are also available to assist the legislative researcher.
The Archives Research Room is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday and is closed on state holidays. Archives staff are on duty during these hours to assist those doing legislative research.
The Archives also provides research service for those located outside the Sacramento area who are seeking legislative history information. If a researcher can specify a particular chapter or bill (for a total of up to six), Archives staff will identify and photocopy materials in our collection relating to the bill(s) at a cost of $0.25/page. The service usually requires at least 3 to 4 working days for research with additional time required for photocopying depending on the size of the order.
Contact the Reference Desk for more information.