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Legislative Research Process

Answer the questions below to guide you to the best sources for your information.
Then use the Quick Links at the bottom to access the documents.

Are you looking for a bill, law, or regulation?

Check Sources for Wisconsin Legislative Actions.

Use the Bulletin of Proceedings Subject Index to find your bill if you do not know its number.

Once you have the bill number, look at the Legislative Proposals or Senate & Assembly Journals for the text.

Do you know the Act or Statute number?

  • Look it up using the  Bulletin of Proceedings or the subject index in the back of your Laws or Statutes volume.

Do you need the original or current text of the law?

  • Consider whether you need the text of the law as it read when it was passed, or the way the law stands now.

Then, check Sources for Wisconsin Laws.

Regulations are developed by the agencies that oversee that area of governmen. They are typically much more detailed and specific than their corresponding legislation.

Check Sources for Wisconsin Regulations.

Sources for Wisconsin Laws

Arranged in order of Act number. Use the subject index in the back of the volume or the Bulletin of Proceedings to determine the Act number if you do not already know it.
Source Coverage

Wisconsin Legislative Documents website

(Look under Archives > Law > Acts)

1848 to date (some years missing)

print - REF GVP WI

Z. 5:

1855 to 2011 (some years missing)

 

Use the subject index volume to determine the number of the statute, if not already known. Some editions are Wisconsin Statutes Annotations. Annotations include a Legislative History, which will tell you when the original bill became law, if and when there were revisions to the law, and court cases that affected the law.
Source Coverage

Wisconsin Legislative Documents website

(Look under Archives > Law > Statutes)

1941 to date

print - REF GVP WI

Z. 5/2:

1849 to date; some years missing
LexisNexis Academic current edition

Sources for Wisconsin Legislative Actions

The Bulletin of Proceedings of the Wisconsin Legislature contains a subject index, which can be use to find your Act number. Once you know the number, the Bulletin will give a brief outline of all action taken on the proposal and will refer you to the corresponding page numbers in the Assembly Journal or Senate Journal for more information.
Source Coverage

print - REF GVP WI

Z. 1:

1969 to date

Wisconsin Legislative Documents website

(Look under Archives > Session > Menu & Histories)

1995 to date
The Journals contain a record of all action taken by that house of the legislature, including roll call votes on legislation. Find the page number where action on your Act was recorded by checking the Bulletin of Proceedings.
Source Coverage

print - REF GVP WI

Z. 1:

1969 to date

Wisconsin Legislative Documents website

(Look under Archives > Session > Journals)

1981 to date
Access a list of all proposed bills and resolutions, with link to the text of the bill.
Source Coverage

Wisconsin Legislative Documents website

(Look under Archives > Session > Proposals)

1995 to date

Sources for Wisconsin Legislative Information

Unlike at the federal level, transcripts of what was said in hearings and debate are not kept. Committee records report how each member voted on a bill. Public hearing records list those who appeared for or against the bill. They may include letters or documents sent to the committee in support or opposition of the bill, but retention and collection of these documents is not complete. 
Source Coverage

Committee Records (ROCPs) on Wisconsin Legislative Documents website

(Look under Archives > Session > Menu & Histories)

1989 to date

Public Hearing Records on Wisconsin Legislative Documents website

(Look under Archives > Session > Public Hearing Records)

1989 to date

print - Committee Reports

GVP WI 

limited; see catalog for holdings

 

In 1947 the Joint Legislative Council was formed with the purpose of conducting in-depth study in order to write better legislation. If your bill was introduced by the Joint Legislative Council, you may find additional documents that will help you understand the bill and its subject.
Source Coverage

Wisconsin Legislative Documents website

(Look under Archives > Legislative Council AND

Miscellaneous Documents > Legislative Council Documents)

varies; 2011 to date

some earlier

print - GVP WI LEG 1969 to date

 

Drafting files contain all all available records from the bill creation process. Some files are more thorough than others, but they may help to determine intent of the legislation.
Source Coverage

Wisconsin Legislative Documents website

(Look under Archives > Drafting Files)

1999 to date

 

The Legislative Reference Bureau conducts research on legislative issues for the Wisconsin State Legislature. 
Source Coverage
LRB Digital Collections website varies; 1950s to date

print - GVP WI

LEG 2.3

1963 to date

Sources for Wisconsin Regulations

Contains the regulations currently in effect. Arranged by state agency.
Source Coverage

Wisconsin Legislative Documents website

(Look under Administrative Rules)

1956 to date

print - REF GVP WI

A. 5:

as of January 2015
LexisNexis Academic current
Unlike the Federal Register, the state does not publish comments and discussion on proposed regulations.
Source Coverage

Wisconsin Legislative Documents website

(Look under Administrative Rules)

1956 to date

print - REF GVP WI

A. 5/4:

2000-2014

Information for Other States

For statutes, court cases, and regulations for other states, use Lexis Nexis Academic.  Coverage will vary by jurisdiction.

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