Skip to main content

Washington State Legislative History

This guide identifies online and print sources for researching the legislative history of bills enacted by the Washington State Legislature.

Free Online Sources

Online research is possible only for bills considered and enacted since 1991.

Here is the process:

  1. Start with a section of the Revised Code of Washington
  2. Find the session law(s) citation(s)
  3. Which lead to bill number(s)
  4. Use the bill number(s) as search terms in databases described below

Revised Code of Washington

Laws of Washington

Finding Original Bill Number in Laws of Washington

Bill Reports & Chronology (Bill Information)

 

Retrieving Bill Information

The information retrieved includes:

  • A full chronology of legislative action on the bill, including the bill sponsor(s), companion bills (if any), readings of the bill, dates of committee hearings and meetings, and roll call votes
  • Links to documents, including
    • the original bill, substitute bills, and amendments
    • bill digests
    • bill reports
    • fiscal notes
  • Links to videos on TVW

While this list makes it sound like there is a lot of useful information, the list is misleading and is not comprehensive.

  • The bill digest is a very brief summary of the important features of the bill.
  • The bill reports are written by nonpartisan committee staff basically summarizing the bill. In fact, recent bill reports include the following disclaimer:
    Legislative Intent Disclaimer
  • Completely omitted are references to the House and Senate journals, which may contain either points of inquiry or references to debates held on the floor of the House or Senate.

Bill Reports & Chronology (Detailed Legislative Reports)

For bills too old to be found with the Bill Information link, go to

Detailed Legislative ReportsDon't be confused by the indication that you will be searching the current biennium.

Click on Bill Summary (History of a Bill). Then change the year option to the one during which the bill was considered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change Year for Detailed Legislative Reports

You will find the same types of documents and links as are found on the Bill Information pages.

Debates & Points of Inquiry

Some of the most substantive and useful material on legislative intent are found in the journals of the House and Senate. Online editions of these journals are available via the Legislative Search website.

This site is a bit complicated. Here are instructions for focusing the search on the journals.

  1. Enter the bill number in the Search Terms box
  2. Click on the Legislative Documents tab
    Searching Journals on the Legislative Search site
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and under Yearly Documents, click in the box to the left of Journal
  4. Select the year or years when the bill was considered from the drop-down box above Journal
    Next Step in Searching Journals on the Legislative Search site
  5. Click Search and cross your fingers!

This search tool has performance problems. If you get no results or if the search never delivers any results, exit the browser and start again. Or try later. Or use the journals in print.

If your search retrieves hits, browse through them, looking for references to debates and/or points of inquiry. That latter will appear in the journal itself. For debates, note the specific date and time when the reference appears. Then see the links at the section on Audio & Video Recordings.