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Standout Summer Research Resources

A Guide to Prepare for Summer Associateships and Beyond

Illinois Legislative History

This page is designed to give you a quick overview of the process of researching legislative intent of an Illinois statute. For full details, see our Illinois Legislative History research guide. The majority of the steps can be done on the Illinois General Assembly website.

  1. Identify the session law (Public Act) that created or amended the statute.
    • The Public Act numbers appear at the end of the text of the statute (i.e. P.A. 87-879).
    • Use of the term “Public Act” began with the 76th General Assembly (1969-70). Prior to that time session laws are cited using the year and page reference to the Laws of Illinois (i.e. L. 1921, p. 42).


  1. Identify the House Bill or Senate Bill number for the Public Act.
    • On Westlaw or Lexis: Look at the full-text of the Public Act by following the link in the History/Credits section of ILCS
    • On the IL General Assembly’s website under Previous General Assemblies, select the General Assembly for your year from the dropdown menu.
      • For GA 77 to GA 89, use the Public Act to Bill Number Conversion Table
      • Beginning with GA 90, the full-text of the Public Acts is available, which includes the originating bill number.
      • For Acts prior to GA 77 (1971), see The Laws of Illinois [2nd floor Rubloff – S,IL KFI 1225 .A212].


  1. Locate a summary of actions taken by the legislature on the bill.
    • The summary will give you the sponsor of the bill, the committees the bill was assigned to, the dates of the first reading, second reading and third readings for the bills on the floor of the House and Senate, and if passed, the date it was signed by the Governor and the date the law went into effect.
      • For GA 93 to current, a summary is available on < Previous General Assemblies < Legislation, Public Acts: Public Acts Listing < click through to text of Public Act < Bill Status
      • For Acts prior to GA 93 (2003), use the IL Legislative Synopsis and Digest published by the IL Legislative Reference Bureau
        • 1985-current available on IL LRB's website
        • Prior to 1985 in print [2nd floor Rubloff - S,IL KFI 1207.L43]


  1. Take note of the dates of key actions from the synopsis.
    • In general, a bill is introduced to the House or Senate during the “first reading.” It is then referred to a committee. The committee will submit its findings (a recommendation of do or do not pass) to the respective chamber, however, these reports are generally not made available. CDs of the audio from House committee meetings held since 1980 can be ordered for a fee by calling the House of Representatives' Committee Clerk at (217) 782-8100. The Senate is not required and does not make available a record of committee hearings.
    • When a bill returns to the full floor of the House or Senate, it then receives a “second reading” or “third reading.” This is where the floor debate occurs and where amendments can be proposed. Amendments to the bill are published in the House Journal and Senate Journal. Transcripts of the floor debates are published separately and available on Note: Legislative debates were first required by the 1970 Constitution and were not regularly produced until the 77th General Assembly (Oct. 1971).


  1. Review the House & Senate transcripts for the dates of key actions.
    • Transcripts are available on
    • Open the transcript for each legislative day and use the Find function in your browser or Adobe Reader (Ctrl+F) to search for the bill number to find where the bill is discussed in the transcript.


  1. Consider unofficial legislative history sources, such as newspaper articles
    • If there is no discussion on the floor of the House or the Senate for the section of the statute that you are researching, you may not find any official documentation regarding the legislative intent. Consider searching in historical newspapers for any articles that may serve as an unofficial report of the legislative intent. [See ProQuest Historical Newspapers which includes the Chicago Tribune]

Other state legislative histories

For other guidance on other state’s legislative history materials, consult Indiana University’s State Legislative History Research Guides Inventory.