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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 primarily only possible only for bills considered and enacted since 1991, though many pre-1991 print resources are now digitized as outlined on the print sources page.

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

To visually help you with this research process, here is our Washington State Legislative History Infographic. 

Revised Code of Washington

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 the daily House and Senate Journals are available on each chambers' webpage (2005-current year). Online editions of these journals are also available via the Legislative Search website. Digitized versions of the House Journals dating back to 1891 and the Senate Journals dating back to 1941 are available through the Legislative Information Center.

How to use the Daily House & Senate Journals:

  1.  Locate the bill number
  2.  Use that bill number to locate the Bill Information
  3.  Review the "Bill History" and take note of relevant dates
  4.  Navigate to either the House or Senate Daily Journals (under the "House" or "Senate" tab)
  5.  Select the correct session year 
  6.  Locate the correct month and date you found relevant using the Bill History
  7.  Look through the PDF of the daily journal and locate references to the bill number/topic (use Ctrl." F" for efficient searching)


If you are using the Legislative Search feature, 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.

Audio & Video Recordings

The Washington State Digital Archives website contains digital audio of:

For the floor recordings, the best approach is to know the year when the bill in question was being considered. Type the year in the box following "Year From." Browse through the resulting hits until you reach the date when remarks were made or a debate occurred (you can obtain this information from the House and Senate journals).

Most days have one or more records associated with blocks of time. Select the record starting before the time indicated in the Senate Journal entry. [Note: You will need to download Microsoft Silverlight, if that program is not already installed on your computer.] Then listen for the bill number to be mentioned. Unfortunately, the debates and remarks are not transcribed.

TVW, the state's public affairs network, had audio and video of House and Senate committee hearings and meetings, floor debates, and work sessions.

TVW Menu then ArchviesTo access these resources, choose Archives from the Menu.

Then under Category, select Legislative. Add Start Date and End Date.

TVW Category and Dates









The comparable records of actions on the floor of the House are in the digitization process. Until those recordings are available on the Digital Archives site, contact contact the Journal Clerk, Washington State House of Representatives, Legislative Building, PO Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504, (360) 786-7790.

You will need to listen to the recording until the bill in which you are interested in mentioned. Usually several bills are discussed in a single audio or video. Note the minute and second at which your bill's discussion begins.