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North Carolina Legislative History

Research guide about resources and strategies for researching North Carolina legislative history.

Introduction and Methods

To conduct NC legislative history research, the first step is to identify the statute to be researched in the General Statutes of North Carolina. The second step is to identify the session law(s) that created the statute or relevant statutory language. North Carolina session laws are published chronologically in the order in which they were passed in the Laws of North Carolina.

Session laws are important for legislative history research. They allow you to read superseded or repealed versions of amended laws and view the entire text of a law (which are sometimes broken up in the codification process). Session laws act as a gateway to other legislative history materials, because they contain the original bill number. As legislative documents are created during the legislative process, they reference the original bill number (not the session law number or the statutory citation).

A common path legislative history research takes is: (1) finding the relevant codified statute in the General Statutes of North Carolina Annotated; (2) using the history notes in the codified statute to find the session law number; (3) reading the session law to find the original bill number; (4) using the bill number to access the original bill as well as other legislative history resources like committee hearings.

Finding North Carolina Statutes

The following resources will help guide research into North Carolina statutes. For more information, see our guide on North Carolina Constitution, Statutes & Ordinances Research.

General Statutes of North Carolina Annotated (KFN7430 1943 .A24): Lexis publishes this official compilation of North Carolina statutes. The annotated code is accessible to the law school community online via Lexis+. Each statutory section contains history notes which indicate the session law number, date of initial passage, and any subsequent amendments for the statute. It also contains annotations about cases that have interpreted a statute.

West's North Carolina General Statutes Annotated (KFN7430 1943 .A241): Thomson Reuters publishes this unofficial annotated version of the general statutes. It is also available online through Westlaw Edge to the law school community.

North Carolina General Statutes: The current, unofficial, and unannotated code is available for free through the North Carolina General Assembly website. Each statutory section includes history notes for locating session laws.

The law library maintains access to superseded versions of the North Carolina General Statutes: 

  • North Carolina General Statutes (KFN7430 1943 .A22): These official superseded versions of the code cover from 1943 to the present.
  • HeinOnline's State Statutes Historical Archive: This database is accessible to the UNC community and through terminals on campus, and it provides access to scattered codifications and revisals from 1773 to 1928.

Finding North Carolina Session Laws

The following resources will help guide research into North Carolina sessions laws. For more information, see our guide on North Carolina Constitution, Statutes & Ordinances Research.

The Laws of North Carolina (KFN7425 .A22) is the official printing of North Carolina session laws, organized by the year and order in which the law was passed. It is available in print at the Law Library.

North Carolina Session Laws are available online in several places:

Finding Prestatehood and Early Statehood Legislative Materials

The following resources can help if you're researching historical legislation. In addition, our North Carolina Constitution, Statutes & Ordinances Research guide also has a helpful section on finding historical codes.

Prestatehood Legal Materials : a Fifty-State Research Guide, including New York City and the District of Columbia (KF240 .P688 2005): This resource contains a guide to early North Carolina legal materials. 

North Carolina Colonial Session Laws (KFN7425 .A22): Available online to UNC community through HeinOnline, this corresponds to the North Carolina colonial and pre-constitutional years of 1715 to 1788.

North Carolina Colonial & State Records (F251 .N6 1886): Available online through UNC Libraries, this is a 26 volume set of original documents relating to legislative and executive actions from the earliest colonial records dating from 1622 to early statehood, up to 1790. The four volume index is the easiest way to search to set. The online UNC libraries version also allows for full-text searching.

Public Documents of North Carolina (KFN7420 .N62): Available online at North Carolina State Government Publications Collection and published from 1831 to 1919, each volume compiles executive and legislative documents (annual and biennial reports, budget documents, addresses of governors to the General Assembly, reports of state institutions, and special committees' reports) produced for the year's session of the General Assembly.