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Legislative Research Fundamentals


Introduction Research Tools, Guides, & Resources
Statutory Development & Comparative Tables Legislative History Research 
Source Notes & Session Laws Additional Resources
I. Introduction


Many legislative inquiries that require in-depth research include examining the history of statutes and amendments, and determining legislative history and intent.  This section is an overview of statutory development; explanation of legislative source notes; print and electronic research tools and resources in the Joint Legislative Library; and how to research and compile a legislative history.


Since legislative histories are not already written, they are compiled from a variety of print and electronic materials and sources. The Colorado Joint Legislative Library staff will assist users in locating and using available resources, but library staff will not compile or write legislative histories.


The information on this webpage is a helpful starting point but is not exhaustive and does not constitute legal advice.


II. Statutory Development & Comparative Tables




The Colorado statutes are the laws passed by the Colorado General Assembly, i.e. the Colorado legislature.


Reasons for researching statutes may include: tracing the history and development of a statute; determining the origin of the statute; locating original statutory language; examining statutory amendments.


The first step is locating the statutory cite(s) to research, and determining if it is a current or older statute.


The Joint Legislative Library has the current Colorado Revised Statutes [C.R.S.] and preceding sets of the Revised Statutes [R.S.]; Annotated Statutes [CSA]; Compiled Laws [CL] and General Laws [GL], which are used in current and historical statutory research.


The table below is the chronological listing, and correct citation for Colorado Statutes publications:



 Title  Citation
 Revised Statutes of Colorado  (1868) R.S. p. ___, §__.
 General Laws of Colorado  (1877) G.L. § __.
 General Statutes of Colorado  (1883) G.S. § __.
 Revised Statutes of Colorado  (1908) R.S. 08, § __.
 Compiled Laws of Colorado  (1921) C.L. § ___.
 Colorado Statutes Annotated  (1935) CSA, C. __, § __.
 Colorado Revised Statutes 1953  (1953) CRS 53, § __.
 Colorado Revised Statutes 1963  (1963) C.R.S. 1963, § ___. 1
 Colorado Revised Statutes  (1973) C.R.S., § ___.2


1. C.R.S. 1963 set includes hardbound supplemental volumes, from 1965 through 1971.


2. Prior to 1997, paperback supplements/pocket parts and Replacement Volumes were published as updates to the 1973 Colorado Revised Statutes.


3. Starting in 1998, complete sets of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) are published annually.  Pocket parts and replacement volumes are no longer published.




The comparative tables show the disposition of titles and/or large articles that have been repealed and reenacted resulting in the relocation of sections and topics.  The list below indicates where the comparative tables are located in the statutory publications from 1921 - 1973.


  • R.S.    1908 to C.L. 1921: in front of the Compiled Laws of 1921
  • C.L.     1921 to CSA 1935: in back of the Index to CSA 1935
  • C.S.A. 1935 to C.R.S. 1953: in front of the Index to C.R.S. 1953
  • C.R.S. 1953 to C.R.S. 1963: in front of the Index to C.R.S. 1963
  • C.R.S. 1963 to current C.R.S in back of the Index to C.R.S.


Before 1921, enacted laws were not compiled into comparative tables, so it can be more difficult to track statutory development.  Locating the subject matter in the statutory index may be the best option for tracking the history of a statute before 1921.


The General Statutes of 1883 arranged laws into numbered chapters, alphabetically by title, collated, and arranged by sections. This became the foundation and model for compiling the statutes until the codification of C.R.S. 1973. 


III. Source Notes & Session Laws




Once the statutory cite is found, the accompanying source notes that follow the citation contain the legislative history of the previous Colorado Revised Statute (C.R.S.) section.   The source note for each section indicates the year the section was added, each year it was amended, and the page of the Session Laws and the section of the bill where the amendment can be found.  The source note includes the number of the section of law as it existed in prior codifications, when applicable.


For example, the source note for Section 10-22-107, C.R.S. reads:


HISTORY: Source: L. 2011: Entire article added, (SB 11-200), ch. 246, p. 1078, § 1, effective June 1.L. 2013: (1) and (7) amended, (HB 13-1245), ch. 258, p. 1360, § 3, effective May 23.


Please note that the online statutes identify the source notes section with "HISTORY: Source", and the print statutes identify this section by "Source.", following the text of the statute.


Below are the abbreviations used in source notes:


"L." is the symbol for "Session Laws" and will be followed by a number indicating the year when the C.R.S. section was changed by a bill generally either creating new law, amending existing law, or repealing existing law.


  • i.e. Source: L. 92: Entire article added, p. 251, which indicates that the creation, amendment or repeal to a statute can be found on page 251 of the 1992 Session Laws.


"Ex. Sess." is the symbol for "Extraordinary Session".  If this symbol follows the year, the amended provision can be found in the Session Laws for an extraordinary session for that year and not in the Session Laws for the regular session of the General Assembly for that year.


"p." is the symbol for page and will be followed by a number indicating the page of the Session Laws where the amendment to the C.R.S. section can be found.


"§" is the symbol for section and will be followed by a number indicating the section of the bill where the amendment to the C.R.S. section can be found.


i.e. Entire article added, p. 251, § 1, effective May 26.

"IP" is the symbol for the introductory portion to a section, subsection, paragraph, or subparagraph.


"Added" means the provision was newly enacted by the bill.


"Amended" means the provision in existing law was amended by the bill.


"Repealed" means the provision was deleted from the existing law by the bill through the use of a repeal provision.


"R&RE" is the symbol for "Repealed and Reenacted" and means the provision in existing law was repealed and reenacted by the bill.


"RC&RE" is the symbol for "Recreated and Reenacted" and means a previously repealed provision has been recreated by the bill.


"Added by revision" means a provision providing for the repeal of a statutory provision on a specified date has been added by the Revisor of Statutes as a C.R.S. provision.  Adding the provision is necessary because a separate section of the bill provided for the repeal of the provision with a future effective date.


"Initiated" means a provision that was amended by means of an initiated petition approved by a vote of the people of Colorado at a general or odd-year election.


"Referred" means a provision that was amended by a measure referred by the General Assembly and voted on by the people of Colorado at a general or odd-year election.




The Session Laws contain the full text of the enrolled (final) version of all bills passed in each legislative session.  The bills are called Acts and are numbered by chapters.  On the first page of the session law chapter, under the chapter number, is the bill number that corresponds to it.  Each bill is numbered "H.B." for House bills and  " S.B." for Senate bills, followed by the year in which the bill was enacted, and the bill number.  For example H.B. 89-1145, is House Bill 1145 from 1989.  The bill number is used in locating the committee meeting summaries and floor and committee recordings on legislation.


Remember that similar legislation enacted in different sessions is assigned a unique bill number in each session.  For example, when researching school finance bills from year to year, they have different bill numbers in each session.  Also, the annual Long Bill (state budget bill) is numbered as a House Bill and Senate Bill in alternate years.


Keep in mind that source notes may not always be carried over from year to year, especially if they are lengthy and the statute was repealed and reenacted.  As a result, as statutes were recodified; moved; amended; repealed, etc., all the changes may not be recorded in the source notes

The evolution and publication history of the statutes effect the accuracy of the source notes.  The method of referring to statutes has evolved from:


  • Chapter and section numbers within a topic;
  • Chapter and section numbers within divisions of each topic;
  • Chapter number, article number, and section number;
  • Title number, article number, and section number. 


Before 1997, the revised statutes; annotated statutes; general laws and compiled laws were not published annually with the updated changes in the law, which is challenging when tracing the history of a statute.  For many years, replacement volumes for selected titles and supplemental pocket parts were published for the statutes, which was not very popular among researchers. 


Finally, starting in 1997, entire sets of the Colorado Revised Statutes are published annually.  The current citation structure of title, article and section is based on the 1973 recodification process.


IV. Research Tools, Guides, & Resources


Researching statutes, statutory language, and compiling legislative histories may require using both older and traditional printed materials, as well as current, select information located on the Internet. The following table lists print and electronic resources with the holdings information, available in the Colorado Joint Legislative Library.


Title Print Website

Colorado Revised Statutes & Compiled Laws


 1877 - Current


 Current Statutes


 Colorado Territorial Laws


 1861 - Current



Colorado Session Laws1

1861 - Current

University of Colorado William A. Wise Law Library is developing a Session Laws website. Currently 1861 through 1876 Session Law are available:

Colorado General Assembly, with Colorado House & Senate Bills, House & Senate Journals2, etc.


 1861 - Current


Current Session 

Prior sessions starting with 1997



Digest of Bills/ Bill Digest3



1963 - Current



1933 - Current


Colorado Legislative Council Publications & Interim Studies4 


1954 - Current


1954 - Current


Committee meeting summaries



Current two years

Previous meeting summaries at State Archives




Current Session 


Starting in 2004, committee summaries for prior sessions are located online under "SESSION INFORMATION/Prior Sessions" on the General Assembly website.




1. Colorado Session Laws and comparative tables are published annually after each session.  The Session Laws for a specific year may be the only resource that indicates changes to a particular statute, especially if there was not an accompanying statute set or supplement published that year.


When reading session laws, the text in CAPITAL LETTERS indicate information that is added or amendments to current statutes; language that is deleted from statute is indicated by strike throughs (abc).


2. House and Senate Journals summarize the daily activity on the floor of each chamber, and includes members' votes on particular issues and other floor work.


3. Digest of Bills/Bill Digest summarizes the legislation enacted during each legislative session, and is published prior to the Session Laws and Colorado Revised Statutes each year.  The Digest encapsulates the recent changes to the statutes; it is not a substitute for the text of the bills or the Colorado statutory provisions.  The Digest's summaries include the dates bills are approved and their effective dates.


4. Colorado Legislative Council research publications and interim studies summarize the activities of the interim committees that meet between legislative sessions.  These interim committees study potential legislation in depth and make recommendations to the general assembly, which is often helpful in determining legislative intent.


V. Legislative History Research


This section defines legislative history and legislative intent, and discusses six components to legislative research: 





Finding & using the bill number and legislative session in which the statute was enacted





Each of these topics include how specific print and/or electronic tools are used in each of these research components.


Since legislative histories are not already written, they are compiled from a variety of print and electronic materials and sources. The Colorado Joint Library staff will assist users in locating and using available resources, but library staff may not compile or write legislative histories.





The terms "legislative history "and "legislative intent" are often used interchangeably when researching the intent of specific legislation and/or determining usage of specific statutory language.  Legislative history is how a piece of legislation makes its way through the legislative process; legislative intent explains why specific legislation is proposed.


According to Black's Law Dictionary 9th edition (2009)


  • Legislative history is defined as:


" The background and events leading to the enactment of a statute, including hearings, committee reports, and floor debates.  Legislative history is sometimes recorded aid in interpreting the statute. "


  • Legislative intent is:


" The design or plan that the legislature had at the time of enacting a statute. "


 A) Identifying the statutory section to research


1. Locating the statutory section


If you know the general subject of the legislation but do not know the year, statute or bill number you may:

  • Narrow or pinpoint the time frame of the legislation;
  • Consult the print subject/topic indexes in the Colorado Revised Statutes; Session Laws; House and Senate Journals; annual Digest of Bills; 
  • Check the print subject indexes and status sheets from 1973 - current, in the Joint Legislative Library,

2. Using electronic resources 


Searching Current Colorado Statutes On-Line  


  • On the LexisNexis Legal Resources screen, select Colorado Revised Statutes;
  • On the next screen, click the blue "I Agree" button;
  • On the "Welcome" screen, click the yellow folder for the Colorado Revised Statutes located in the left hand panel.

    • On the next screen, insert search terms or the statutory citation in the search box;
    • Or select and open a title listed on the screen by clicking on the box with the small plus sign in it (+),  located to the left of the title name. 
  • Review the source note to find the session law year that enacted or amended the statute.




Source: G.L. § 438. L. 1881: p. 100, § 1. G.S. § 530. L. 01: p. 144, § 1. R.S. 08: § 1196. C.L. § 8672. CSA: C. 45, § 15. CRS 53: § 35-3-6. L. 63: p. 262, § 1. C.R.S. 1963: § 35-3-6. L. 75: Entire section R&RE, p. 190, § 2, effective April 24. L. 80: (3) added, p. 424......... L. 2002: (1), (2), and (4) amended and (5) added, p. 135, § 1, effective August 7.


    • To determine which bill added or amended the language in question, it may be necessary to look at several Acts in the Session Laws.  If the statutory section has been amended several times, begin by looking at the latest amendment.  Work backward through each amendment listed in the source note. Stop when you locate the Act in which the language appeared.  


  • Consult cross references following the statutory section that indicate that a nonstatutory legislative declaration was included in the act.



Cross references: For the legislative declaration contained in the 2002 act amending this section, see section 1 of chapter 318, Session Laws of Colorado 2002.


  • Review annotations for legislative intent interpreted in case law:

For example, the ANNOTATION section following Section 8-3-106, C.R.S., Rights of Employees, includes this reference to legislative intent:


Legislative intent. The language of the third sentence of this section evinces an intent on the part of the general assembly to protect the working man's right to freely chart his own course with regard to labor organization activities. Commc'ns Workers of Am. v. Western Elec. Co., 191 Colo. 128, 551 P.2d 1065 (1976), appeal dismissed, 429 U.S. 1067, 97 S. Ct. 799, 50 L. Ed. 2d 785, reh'g denied, 430 U.S. 923, 97 S. Ct. 1341, 51 L. Ed. 2d 602 (1977).


 B) Finding & using the bill number and legislative session in which the statute was enacted

Since most legislative history is primarily tracked by bill number, it is imperative to know the bill number and year of the legislation being researched.


The source note following each statute has the year the statute was amended and the page number of that year's Session Laws in which the enacting legislation can be found. 


  • i.e. Source: L. 92: Entire article added, p. 251, which indicates that the creation, amendment or repeal to a statute can be found on page 251 of the 1992 Session Laws.


The Session Laws contain the full text of the enrolled (final) version of all bills passed in each legislative session.  The bills are called Acts and are numbered by chapters. On the first page of the session law chapter, under the chapter number, is the bill number that corresponds to it. Each bill is numbered as " H.B." for House bills and " S.B." for Senate bills, followed by the year in which the bill was enacted, and the bill number.  For example H.B. 89-1145, is House Bill 1145 from 1989.


Print copies of all the Session Laws are available in the Colorado Joint Legislative Library, and Session Laws from 1993 to current year are available on-line.


 C) Locating & using summarized legislative action and bill histories

Bill numbers will then assist you in finding more information on the history of the legislation in print and on-line sources.


For legislation prior to1998, dates of legislative action are printed in tables in the House and Senate Journals, and final status sheets. 


The summarized history for legislation from 1998 to current is located at Colorado General Assembly, under SESSION INFORMATION, Regular Session and Prior Sessions.


The bill history or legislative action includes dates of Senate and House floor debates, committee assignments, dates of committee hearings, date legislation signed by the governor, etc. 


1. Print resources


a. Tables of House/Senate Bills


These tables are located in the back of the second volume of the House and Senate Journals for each year, listing all the bills from the session in numerical order, with a brief description of the bill and its sponsors. To find action and votes on each bill refer to the page numbers of the Journal listed in the table.  Remember to check the bill in both the House and Senate Journal tables, since the action taken differs between the two chambers.


The written entries in recent journals briefly note and summarize the actions taken.  Actions include referrals to committees, votes, and transmittal between chambers.


Earlier journals often chronicle chamber activities in detail, sometimes by including speeches or discussions, since writing was the primary method to record these activities.


Recorded media available at the State Archives and in the Joint Legislative Library provide detailed information on chamber and committee action and bill testimony.

b. Final Status Sheets in the Joint Legislative Library 

In addition to the tables of House and Senate bills in the journals, the Joint Legislative Library has the final status sheets for legislation from 1973 - current.  These status sheets list the bills in numerical order; bill sponsors and short bill title.  These status sheets track the action on a bill by date, which is the main difference between the tables listed in the journals described above and the status sheets. 


2. On-line resources 


On-line Summarized Histories are located on the General Assembly website for the current regular session and for prior sessions starting with 1997.  These summarized histories for the bills include the specific dates and type of action taken on a bill.  


This sample bill history for House Bill 04-1003 indicates the dates the bill was heard in the House1 and Senate, and when it was heard in committee.2


01/07/2004 Introduced In House - Assigned to Judiciary + Appropriations

01/15/2004 House Committee on Judiciary Refer Amended to Appropriations 2

03/26/2004 House Committee on Appropriations Pass Amended to House Committee of the Whole

04/13/2004 House Second Reading Laid Over 1

04/14/2004 House Second Reading Special Order - Laid Over Daily

04/15/2004 House Second Reading Special Order - Passed with Amendments

04/16/2004 House Third Reading Passed

04/19/2004 Introduced In Senate - Assigned to Judiciary + Appropriations

04/21/2004 Senate Committee on Judiciary Refer Amended to Appropriations

04/23/2004 Senate Committee on Appropriations Pass Amended to Senate Committee of the Whole

04/27/2004 Senate Second Reading Passed with Amendments

04/28/2004 Senate Third Reading Passed with Amendments

04/29/2004 House Considered Senate Amendments - Result was to Not Concur - Request Conference Committee

05/03/2004 First Conference Committee Result was to Adopt Rerevised w/ Amendments

05/03/2004 Senate Consideration of First Conference Committee Report result was to Adopt Committee Report - Repass

05/04/2004 House Consideration of First Conference Committee Report result was to Adopt Committee Report - Repass

05/17/2004 Signed by the President of the Senate

05/17/2004 Signed by the Speaker of the House

05/17/2004 Sent to the Governor

05/25/2004 Governor Action - Signed


1. If a date on the bill summary is followed only by "House" or "Senate", that means the bill was discussed in the House or Senate Chambers (on the floor). 


2. When a date on the bill summary is followed by " Senate or House Committee on...(name of the committee) ", that means it was heard in committee.


3. Review These Additional Sources for:


- Committee assignments;

- Proposed 2nd and 3rd reading amendments if they passed;

- Check if a conference committee report was prepared for the bill.


 D) Comparing all versions of the bill


Compare all the versions of the bill (introduced, engrossed, reengrossed, revised, rerevised) to determine:


- Whether or not the language in question appeared in the introduced version of the bill;

- Whether the language was offered as a committee or floor amendment;

- Whether the language was offfered in a conference committee report.  The "final act" version is the only version that incorporates the conference committee report into the act.

- Compare the bill summary to the entry contained in the bill digest


Remember that the bill summary is never amended and appears in all versions of the bill.  This can provide insight as to the original intent of the bill.  The Digest of Bill entires are summaries of the amended bills.


Note: To obtain copies of all versions of a bill for years prior to 2004, contact State Archives or go to the Joint Legislative Library at the Capitol. 


For years 2004 and later, the various versions are available on the General Assembly website under Prior Session Information.


 E) Reviewing bill drafting and research records


The Office of Legislative Legal Services provides bill drafting services.  Although drafting records are confidential, they may contain useful information about the source or the purpose of the bill.  Access to the original bill files is limited, and arrangements to view these files must be made in advance by contacting the Office of Legislative Legal Services


If it is determined that the language in question appeared in the introduced version of the bill, rather than as an amendment:  


  • Contact the Office of Legislative Legal Services to inquire whether or not the sponsor:


- Waived his or her privilege to maintain the confidentiality of drafting records;


- Requires anyone seeking access to such records to obtain the sponsor's permission prior to releasing the records;


- Has not given permission to release any drafting records and does not want to be contacted for permission.


  • Check with the Office of Legislative Legal Services about contacting a current or former member with questions or permission to view the member file.
  • Contact Colorado State Archives for legislative bill files not in the possession of the Office of Legislative Legal Services.


F) Listening to and/or making recordings of legislative discussion


In 1973, the General Assembly began audio taping committee hearings, and the floor debates in the House and the Senate Chambers.  Audio tapes are often the best source of information on legislative intent, since these recordings include entire discussions and debates on legislation. 


  • Colorado State Archives maintains and has tapes and recordings from 1973 to the current session;
  • Colorado Joint Legislative Library has recordings from 2002 to the current session. 


Remember that the legislative floor debates are summarized daily in the House and Senate Journals, and the committee hearings are summarized in legislative committee meeting summaries.


In order to listen and/or record the discussion, you will need the following information from the bill history and legislative committee summaries:


  • Bill Number;


  • Names of House and/or Senate Committees to which the bill was referred;


  • Dates of the bill's second and third readings in the House and/or Senate;


  • Dates, times and location of committee hearings.


1. Legislative Committee Summaries


The legislative committee summaries prepared by Legislative Council Staff summarize the business conducted at the committee of reference hearings.  The summaries are helpful while listening to the recordings, since they include:


- Committee hearing date, time, and location;

- Committee members and persons attending and testifying;

- Discussion and debate of legislation;

- Roll call votes.


The meetings summaries before the 2004 session are available at Colorado State Archives.


To locate the legislative committee summaries from 2004 to the current session on the Colorado General Assembly website:


a. Find the year of the legislation by opening the link for prior session information or current regular session information;


b.  Then click COMMITTEES  at the top of the page;


c. Open Summaries by Committee, and scroll down to the name of the House and/or Senate Committee name you need (from the summarized history of the bill), i.e. "House Education":


d. Click on the blue "twisty" to the left of the committee name;


e. Find the date you need and click on "twisty"  to the left of the date to locate your bill number.  Then click on the "committee summary" under the bill number, for the time and room location of the hearing.


 2. House and Senate Floor Debates


To locate written summaries of House and Senate floor debates in the House and Senate Journals:


a. Access Colorado General Assembly, and locate the year of the legislative session of the legislation;


b. Select JOURNALS on the current session information or previous session information, and then choose House Journal or Senate Journal link;


c. After opening the House or Senate Journal, the calendar appears;


d. Locate the date(s) of the journal entries you want and click on the calendar date to access the Journal for that day.  Scroll through the pages to locate information on specific legislation, or use the binoculars icon or <cntrl> F keyboard command to search.


3. Recordings at the Colorado Joint Legislative Library (2002 - current)


The Joint Legislative Library has recorded floor and committee hearings from 2002 to the current session.  These recordings are stored by year, date, time and room location.


Researchers may come in to listen to recordings and/or make audio recordings.  It is helpful to have the bill number, dates, time and location of the recordings as described above.  Library staff will assist users in locating and recording the hearings.


Since the floor debates and committee hearings are recorded, Legislative Council staff does not provide written transcripts of the proceedings, but the library staff will provide names of transcription services upon request.


There is currently no charge for this service.  However, library staff ask that users bring in their own CD's or flash drives for recordings.  Also, the Joint Legislative Library staff will not make recordings or transcribe the recordings.


Instructions on locating, listening to, and recording floor and committee hearings.


4.  Recordings at Colorado State Archives (1975 - current session)


The Colorado State Archives has recordings from 1975 to the current session.  The older recordings are on reel to reel tape, and the recordings from 2002 to date are stored on computers in the audio recording software program.


Contact Archives to schedule an appointment to listen to tapes and for information on the associated fees.


When you visit the State Archives, be sure to have the bill number you are researching.  Ask the Archives staff for the "Bill folder" or notebook for that bill, which has the legislative summaries and other documents relating to the bill. 



VI. Additional Resources


  • Reports and studies from special task forces, committees, commissions, or state agencies on potential legislation.


  • Though an unofficial source, newspapers provide a contemporary view of the legislative process.


  • Governors' veto messages on legislation published in the House and Senate Journals.



- Searchable by publication number; publication year; subject or keyword.


  • Fiscal Notes.


- Fiscal notes provide a concise explanation and fiscal impact of proposed legislation.  They are available electronically for legislation from 1998 - current on the Colorado General Assembly website.


  • Researching bills that did not pass on the topic of the legislation you are researching






  • Contacting lobbying organizations, former legislators, or persons who testified before the committees.


  • Check with your local university/public/law library for legislative resources.


  • Other Libraries:


Colorado State Archives 


Colorado Supreme Court Library 


Colorado State Publications 


History Colorado  


Denver Public Library/Western History


  • Real time audio and video of legislative proceedings:


You can also listen to the floor and committee proceedings and view House and Senate activity during each session in live time over the Internet.  To access these proceedings, click on "SESSION INFORMATION" on the Colorado General Assembly  website, then on "Audio and Video Broadcasts" . Then select if you want to watch the House or Senate Chambers, or listen to committee or floor proceedings.


Starting in 2012, users can download audio of legislative proceedings from the Colorado Senate, Colorado House of Representatives and the House and Senate Committees. 


You can watch the House floor proceedings on Comcast cable TV channel 165 or on the Colorado Channel.









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