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North Carolina Legislative History

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

Bills - Introduction

A bill is a piece of proposed legislation. When doing legislative history research, bills are important for two main purposes: (1) finding the original text and chronological history of already-passed bills to gain historical and legislative intent insight; and (2) tracking the development of pending legislation.

For already passed legislation, finding the original bill and the chronological bill history will help in understanding the process and reasoning behind changes in the text of the bill. It can be used to find valuable legislative history resources such as committee hearings, floor debates, and study reports.

Meanwhile, tracking a pending bill will show important information such as its current stage in the legislative process, any important changes to the text of the bill, or which specific committee will be voting on the bill.

Retrieving Bills and Chronological Bill Histories

The following resources can be utilized to locate the text of the original bill as well as its chronological history:'s Legislation/Bill Section: The NC legislature's website has an index and lookup tool for bills dating back to the 1985-1986 legislative session. You can search by bill number, keyword, or by which house of the legislature the bill originated. Looking up a bill will also provide the chronological bill history. Finally, the site has a helpful video tutorial on searching for bills using their site.

Lexis+ NC Full-Text Bills: Available to the law school community, Lexis+ allows you to search by bill number and boolean keyword search or filter by bill status, date, sponsor and more. Lexis’ NC Bill Tracking Reports database also contains a summary and legislative chronology of pending bills back through 1989.

Westlaw’s North Carolina Legislative History: Bill Analysis: This database provides bill summaries from the 2000 Regular Session of the 1999 General Assembly through the 2008 Regular Session of the 2008 General Assembly.

The North Carolina Legislative Library: The “Legislative Publications” section of the NC Legislative Library’s website includes bill histories from 1973-1984.

The UNC School of Government Library Legislative Archive (in print): This archive holds print copies of all versions of bills introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly since 1939.

The North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, UNC Chapel Hill (in print): This collection holds scattered versions of bills from 1858 to 1999. These are somewhat difficult to search; we suggest contacting the North Carolina Collection directly for assistance.

Ratified Bills: This is a collection of final versions of bills in North Carolina, passed by both houses of the legislature and assigned a chapter number. The Law Library receives these within a few days of passage. The ratified bill shows additions and deletions made to the language and is helpful in understand the history of the bill. It is held in Reserve Room (ask for assistance at Circulation or Reference Desk) and searchable on the General Assembly of North Carolina website.

Summaries of Substantive Ratified Legislation (KFN7411.62 .L46 S85): This resource summarizes substantive bills passed during legislative sessions, organized by subject. It is available for the years 1989-2016 through the General Assembly of North Carolina website, while the Law Library has issues from the 1989-2009 sessions and the School of Government library has issues from the 1989-2012 sessions.

Tracking Bills

The following resources can be used to track pending bills: The NC Legislature website provides helpful tracking information for current bills, including its current status, vote history, and sponsors. All you need to do is search for the bill number in the top right search box to pull up tracking information.

Westlaw's North Carolina Bill Tracking: Westlaw's bill tracking service provides the full text of all available bills (introduced, amended, and enacted versions) from the current session of the NC Legislature.

Lexis' North Carolina Bill Tracking Reports: Lexis's database contains a summary and legislative chronology of pending bills back through 1989.  

The North Carolina Legislative Library: You can call the Bill Status Desk at the Legislative Library for current updates on pending legislation at: (919) 733-7779.

Daily Bulletin (KFN7407 .D24): This daily digest of actions by the North Carolina General Assembly is accessible to the law school community through online access (password available at My Carolina Law.) While current editions of the Daily Bulletin are collected in the Davis Library Reference area and in the School of Government Library, the Law Library's collection is limited to 1965-1994.