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A Guide To...State Legislative Research: Researching Bills

This guide is a starting point for State Legislative Research. The guide includes recommended resources and tips for effective research.

State Websites

To understand state legislation, you will need more than just the text of the bill.  You need to know:

  • Background and Context 
  • What the bill does and WHY?
  • What problem it the bill trying to solve and HOW?

Search the State Legislature Website

Each state legislature website is different.  From state to state, legislative bodies vary greatly in size and staffing, resulting in a wide range of what is available on their websites.

When browsing a state legislature website, look for the following helpful information (again, not all of these things are available on all websites):

  • Plain-English summaries of the bill (which are updated as the bill is amended) 
  • Background information to provide context and history 
  • Videos / transcripts of committee hearings and floor consideration 
  • List of bill supporters and opponents

Some state legislature websites do not allow for plain-text searching.  You may need to know the actual bill number to find the full-text.

In many cases, trying alternative websites may provide you with more information.

Information adapted from Jennifer Horne's (Business, Economics, and Government Information Librarian at the University of Kentucky) presentation on February 15, 2023 for the Research and User Services Association, entitled "Supporting an Informed Citizenry with State Legislative Research Strategies and Tools".

Alternatives to State Legislature Websites

These sites aggregate legislative information from all 50 states

Finding Additional Information

Use these sources to get additional background and contextual information about bills at the state legislative level:
Conduct news searches for the bill's title, topic, number or sponsor.  Try state-level news outlets (like state newspapers or local NPR affiliates) and national news outlets (like The Washington Post or the New York Times).  Use the databases below to search news articles.
Identify the stakeholders that may support or oppose the bill.
  • What National/State Policy Groups & Special Interest Groups would be concerned with this bill?
    • Use this directory from to search nationally, by state, and by issue. Interest groups often provide plain-English summaries.
  • Who is/are the bill sponsor(s)? 
    • Look at the elected officials sponsoring the bill and those who are opposed.