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. The following walks you through accessing legislative history materials online and in print and microfiche formats.

Summary of steps to obtain House or Senate floor debates:

  1. Determine which Public Act added the language in which you are interested.
  2. Determine what the original bill number was for that Public Act.
  3. Look up the bill number in the Legislative Synopsis & Digest. This will tell you the dates of relevant floor debates.
  4. Locate the text of the debates, online or in microfiche.

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.

2. Determine what the original bill number was for 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).

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

The 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 Reading of bills in Illinois: which readings are 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.)


4.  Locate the text of the relevant debates.

  • Online:  Some LSD entries provide direct links to the relevant debate transcriptions. If a link is not provided, look up the debate by date under the Transcripts links for that General Assembly to see if the debate is available online.  Look for your debates in BOTH houses because information from both chambers may be relevant (see Reading of bills in Illinois: which readings are relevant to legislative history?).
  • Microfiche:  Microfiche is located in the South Wing (to your immediate left as you enter the South Wing from the main lobby).
    • The Index to the Transcripts of the House Debates and The Index to the Transcripts of the Senate Debates are in black folders/binders on top of the filing cabinets against the back wall. Look up your bill in BOTH indices because information from both chambers may be relevant (see Reading of bills in Illinois: which readings are relevant to legislative history?).
      • If your bill is prior to 1982, you will need to look for the Legislative Day instead of the date.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • If you are researching recent legislation: the text of debates may not yet be available online. In this case contact the Illinois House and Senate Transcribing offices to obtain copies of the 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.