Skip to main content

California Legislative History: Annotated Codes

This guide provides an overview of California legislative history materials available at Rains Library, as well as a how-to guide to perform your own legislative history.

Using Current Annotated Codes to Locate Session Law, Chapter Law, and Bill Citations

California statutes are published in the following stages:

  • California statutes are introduced as bills, cited in the format A.B. 1 (the first bill introduced by the Assembly within a legislative session) or S.B. 1 (the first bill introduced by the Senate within a legislative session).  
  • Once a bill is passed by the Assembly and Senate and signed by the Governor, it is assigned a new chapter law number and organized by date in the session laws, cited as Stats. 2017, c. 1 (The first bill chaptered in 2017, published in the 2017 edition of California's session laws, the Statutes of California.)  
  • Finally, bills are organized by topic in the California codes, cited as Cal. <subject> Code § 1.

Usually, you will start your legislative history research with a citation to a code.

To continue your legislative history research, you will need to convert your code citation into a session law, chapter law, or bill citation using an annotated code, such as:

Check the end of the statute for a Credits or History section identifying the original chapter law, session law, and/or bill that enacted the statute and each chapter law, session law, or bill that has amended it. (See Screencaps tabs.) If you aren't sure which amendment is relevant to your research, scroll down on Lexis or access Westlaw's History > Editor's & Revisor's Notes subtab for brief history notes explaining what each amendment did.

In the example below:

  • The current section was enacted in 1957. 
  • The statute was amended by the 610th chapter law of 2003. (Stats 2003 ch 610.) To find it in the session laws, access the 2003 Statutes of California and then flip to chapter 610. The amendment began as the 1770th bill introduced in the Assembly during that legislative session (AB 1770.) The specific section of the session law/chapter law/bill that enacted this statute was section 8.
  • The statute was amended by the 296th chapter law of 2011 (Stats 2011 ch 296.) To find it in the session laws, access the 2011 Statutes of California and then flip to chapter 201. The amendment began as the 1023 bill introduced in the Assembly during that legislative session (AB 1023.) The specific section of the session law/chapter law/bill that enacted this statute was section 101.

Below the list of amendments is a Notes section explaining what each amendment did. In this case, the first note tell you that the current section was recodified (moved) from an earlier section, Cal. Fish & Game Code § 1323 of 1933, added by Stats1933 ch 312 p 891. (The 312th chapter law of 1933, published in the 1933 Statutes of California at page 891.) For the complete history of this statute, you will need to access a historical version of the code published between 1933 and 1957 and, ideally, as close to 1957 as possible to catch any amendments. 

In the example below:

  • The current section was enacted as the 456th chapter law of 1957 and published in the 1957 Statutes of California at page 1346. (Stats. 1957, c. 456, p. 1346.) The specific section of the session law/chapter law/bill that enacted this statute was section 2250.
  • The statute was amended by the 610th chapter law of 2003. (Stats. 2003, c. 610.) Although no page number is provided, you can find it in the session laws by accessing the 2003 Statutes of California and then flipping to chapter 610. The amendment began as the 1770th bill introduced in the Assembly during that legislative session (A.B. 1770.) The specific section of the session law/chapter law/bill that enacted this statute was section 8.
  • The statute was amended by the 296th chapter law of 2011 (Stats. 2011, c. 296.) To find it in the session laws, access the 2011 Statutes of California and then flip to chapter 201. The amendment began as the 1023 bill introduced in the Assembly during that legislative session (A.B. 1023.) The specific section of the session law/chapter law/bill that enacted this statute was section 101.

Access the History > Editor's and Revisor's Notes subtab for notes explaining what each amendment did. In this case, one of the notes tell you that the current section was recodified (moved) from an earlier section, Cal. Fish & Game Code § 1323 of 1933, added by Stats. 1933, c. 312, p. 891. For the complete history of this statute, you will need to access a historical version of the code published between 1933 and 1957 and, ideally, as close to 1957 as possible to catch any amendments. 

In addition to the annotated version of the code on Lexis and Westlaw, you can also access a free, unannotated version of the code on the legislature's website:

However, the un-annotated version is generally less helpful than the Lexis and Westlaw versions because it identifies only very recent amendments to statutes and does not explain what they did.

In the example below, the unannotated version identifies only the most recent, 2011 amendment to the statute.

Locating Historical Versions of the Codes

Sometimes the history notes will reveal that your statute was recodified (moved) to its current section from a previous section, requiring you to retrieve the original section in a historical version of the code to view the statute's full history. Other times, you will know from the start that the statute you are researching was repealed. Or you may simply need to know what the law was at a specific point in time.

To find statutes in historical codes, try these sources: