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Pennsylvania Legal Resources

Comprehensive list of Pennsylvania related legal resources available on the web.

What it is:

A legislative history is the chronology of legislative action. To trace this legislative action, a researcher must uncover the sources of legislative information that lead to a bill's passage.


From 1975 forward, Pennsylvania legislation and their attached histories are available on the Pennsylvania General Assembly's website.  Prior to 1975, it will take a little leg-work with print resources.  The steps for completing a legislative history in Pennsylvania prior to 1975 legislation is generally:

  1. Identify the Act Number.
    A citation with an Act number is typically found immediately after each section in Purdon's.
  2. Identify the Bill Number.
    For laws passed in 1965, going forward, the bill number is printed on the first page of each Act in the Laws of Pennsylvania. Before 1965, a bill number can be found in the bill index pages of the House and Senate Histories.
  3. Use Bill Number to locate bill history.
    Consult the House or Senate histories for the year of your legislation to find a sequential listing of the history for your act and look for a page reference to the House or Senate Journal.
  4. Locate Remarks in House or Senate Journal.
    Consult the House or Senate Journal for the year of your legislation and find the page referenced.

Bill histories from 1975 forward are available online at the Pennsylvania General Assembly website by locating an enacted bill and clicking on the "history" link.

Finding an Act Number in Purdons:

If using Purdon's, the Act Number is listed at the end of each section. For example: 23 Pa. C.S.A. § 2725: 1980, Oct. 15 P.L. 934, No. 163 § 1, effective Jan. 1, 1981.

1980 is the year the bill became law.

Oct. 15 is the date the bill became law.

P.L. 934 is the Pamphlet Law Number which equals the page number in the 1980 volume of Laws of Pennsylvania.

No. 163 is the act number.

Compiling a legislative history:

Main sources of legislative information:

PURDONS:  Purdon's Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated and Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated (Purdon's) is the subject arrangement of the laws, arranged by title and annotated with cases. At the end of each section is a listing of each amendment by pamphlet law and Act number. Each section also includes Historical and Statutory Notes which are helpful for tracing legislative history

LAWS:  The Laws of Pennsylvania are a chronological arrangement of the laws, arranged in bound volumes by year, dating back to 1700. These laws are arranged by Act number, with the House or Senate Bill number printed on the first page of each Act since 1965. Before 1965, or if you do not have access to the Laws, consult the subject index in the House or Senate History.

BILLS:  Bills are proposed legislation. Bills give the text of legislation and name the sponsors of the legislation. Both the sponsors' names and the text are potentially useful in helping to determine legislative intent.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is composed of the House and Senate.  A bill can originate in either legislative body.

House and Senate Bills can have three different sets of numbers assigned to them: Bill Number, Printer's Number and, if an act becomes law, an Act Number. Bills are numbered in the order in which they are introduced into the respective legislative bodies. Printer's numbers change whenever the bill is amended. If a bill becomes law, it is listed by the act number. Acts are numbered chronologically in the order in which they were passed.

HISTORIES: The History of House Bills and Resolutions (House History) and the History of Senate Bills and Resolutions (Senate History) give the chronological history of House and Senate Bills for each legislative session and act as a finding aid to debates in the Pennsylvania legislative journals. Bill history can be accessed by either the House and/or Senate History's subject index, or by bill number. If there are floor remarks associated with a bill, there will be a reference to a page number in either the House or Senate Journal.

JOURNALS: The Pennsylvania Legislative Journal of the House of Representatives (House Journal) and the Pennsylvania Legislative Journal of the Senate (Senate Journal) record debates entered into on the floor of the House and Senate pursuant to a bill and also record the vote for the bill. This "floor action" is useful in establishing the purpose and possible impact of bill.  Frequently these remarks are the only "leglslative history" available for a bill in Pennsylvania.

Other sources of legislative information:

COMMITTEE HEARINGS: Committee Hearings are sources of information concerning public sentiment expressed about proposed legislation. Many legislative proposals do not involve hearings.

While transcripts of these public hearings are not readily available, the Pennsylvania Senate Library, maintains current files of legislative committee hearings.  The Senate Library's phone number is: 717-787-6120.

The Pennsylvania House Archives maintains committee documents, public hearings transcripts, and other collections pertaining to proposed legislation. The House Archive's phone number is:717-783-3866.

The Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus provides a video archive for some hearings and committee meetings that can be watched.

COMMITTEE REPORTS: Bills are sent to various committees to be studied and to be reported on to the whole legislative body. While these committee reports would be a chief source of legislative intent, the unavailability of these reports greatly lessens their importance. Some committee reports may be available at the Pennsylvania House Archives or the Senate Library.

The Joint State Government Commisssion website contains select committee reports.

Compiled bill histories:

For a fee, the Jenkins Law Library has an extensive number of compiled legislative histories for laws dating back to 1836. 

For further help:

Chapter Four provides a good discussion of the various sources of legislative history in Pennsylvania.