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Georgia Legal Research

Overview

While researchers will use similar sources to conduct bill tracking and legislative history, these two functions are employed at different times in the research process, and for opposite reasons. Researchers conducting bill tracking are concerned with the status of a current piece of legislation, while researchers conducting legislative history are concerned with the history and documents surrounding an enacted piece of legislation. 

Bill Tracking

Bill tracking consists of following the status of a current bill as it makes its way through the legislative process. A researcher conducting bill tracking will want to know the bill's current progress, the likelihood of enactment, and ascertain how the proposed law would affect laws currently in force. In a sense, bill tracking is the reverse of legislative history.

By its very nature, researchers engaging in bill tracking will want to utilize online sources to stay abreast of a bill's progress through the legislative process. There are several online sources researchers can use to conduct bill tracking. 

Online Sources for Bill Tracking

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Legislative History

While bill tracking follows the legislative process from the introduction of a bill to its possible enactment, legislative history research works backwards, beginning with an enacted statute. Researchers conduct legislative history research in order to gain a better understanding of the law, as well as a means to determine the legislature's intent in enacting the law. 

Legislative history materials in Georgia are divided into two categories: official and unofficial

Official sources of legislative history 
  • Versions of bills

    • Researchers can review bill versions to determine when language was added or removed during the legislative process.

  • Preamble to acts in Georgia Laws

    • ​While not the text of the law, the preamble at the beginning of an act in Georgia Laws can provide researchers with insight on the legislature's intent for passing the law.

  • House and Senate Journals

    • The Journals do not provide a verbatim account of proceedings on the floor of the House and Senate, but they do serve as the official record of proceedings in the General Assembly. The Journals contain information on events that occurred during a bills enactment, such as votes and committee assignments, as well as the text of floor amendments.

Unofficial sources of legislative history 
  • Review of Selected Georgia Legislation ("Peach Sheets")

    • The annual Peach Sheets issue, published by Georgia State University Law Review, is an excellent source of legislative history for Georgia statutory law. The Peach Sheets provide background on a bill's introduction, relevant information from floor debates, and public perceptions of the legislation during the bill's consideration in the General Assembly. The selected acts covered tend to be of great public interest, or have a significant impact on the practice of law. GSU Law Review first began publishing the Peach Sheets in 1985.

  • Annual Survey of Georgia Law 

    • Mercer Law Review publishes the "Annual Survey of Georgia Law." While the Annual Survey focuses on case law, it also includes some commentary on significant legislative developments. 

  • Georgia Legislative History Databases

    • Both Lexis Advance and WestlawNext have legislative history databases that contain materials useful for conducting legislative history research. 

Legislative History Process

The following are the typical steps researchers should take when conducting legislative history research. 

  1. Locate the statutory text you are interested in researching in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated or the West's Code of Georgia Annotated. After the text of the statutory text you will find the history line, which will provide citations to where you can locate in Georgia Laws the text of the law when it was originally passed by the General Assembly, along with citations to the text of amendments. 
     
  2. Determine which acts you are interested in researching. Based on your topic, you may want to research the legislative history for each amendment. 
     
  3. Locate the text of the act in Georgia Laws. Along with the text of the act, Georgia Laws will provide you with the preamble of the act, and the bill number. The preamble can provide some insight into the General Assembly's intent for the law.
     
  4. Using the bill number, you can locate the different versions of the bill using either the General Assembly's website, or a commercial database. Reviewing the bill versions can help you ascertain the legislature's intent. 
     
  5. The bill number will also help you find information in the official Journals of the House and Senate.
     
  6. After reviewing the official sources of legislative history, you should check to see if Georgia State Law Review's "Peach Sheets" covered this particular act. The Peach Sheets are published in the first issue of each volume of the Georgia State University Law Review. Each Peach Sheets issue includes a Table of Codes Sections Affected and a House and Senate Bills Index, which allows users to quickly determine if the issue includes an article on point with their act. 
     
  7. Review the "Annual Survey of Georgia Law" by Mercer Law Review to see if any article pertains to the law. 
     
  8. If accessible, check the Georgia Legislative History Databases on Lexis Advance or WestlawNext to see if they contain any additional information. 

Online Official Sources of Legislative History

Bill Versions
Georgia Laws
House and Senate Journals
Bill Versions
Georgia Laws
House and Senate Journals
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Online Unofficial Sources of Legislative History

Peach Sheets 
Annual Survey of Georgia Law
Legislative History Databases 
Peach Sheets 
Annual Survey of Georgia Law
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