For those of you who need to research the legislative intent of a bill that was enacted into law in California, you need to look at a number of options to conduct your research. I will describe some of those avenues here.
First, be sure that you have a general understanding of how bills are enacted in California. Second, decide how much time you have to spend researching. Is this an urgent request where you only have a couple of hours, or do you have a little bit of time. In California, like in most states, legislative intent can be kind of elusive. While leginfo.ca.gov has plenty of information, it only has information on bills going back to 1993. If the legislation was written or enacted prior to 1993, you may have to pay a visit to the State Archives.
After this, start reviewing California legislative history resources. Leginfo has the bill, all the versions of the bills, texts the committee and for analysis, the votes and the history at the California State Archives, they have author files, committee files, governor’s chapter bill files, some of the party files, including the Assembly Republican Caucus, the Senate Floor analysis files, sometimes agency files, at times studies from outside groups like the California Law Revision Commission.
For legislation post-January 2018, courtesy of Prop 54, the California Assembly and Senate have to make video and audio recordings of all legislative committee hearings and floor sessions. Another helpful tool is looking into media coverage at the time of the statute’s debate and adoption. The news may help explain what the purpose of the bill was, or what particular problem or issue it was trying to address. Next, you may want to contact the legislator who was the bill’s author, as well as the committees the bill was assigned to, so you can know the bill’s history and check those as well.
You can read the full transcript of today’s audio here.