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How to Cite US Government Documents in MLA, APA Citation Style: State Legislative Documents

State Legislative Documents

The Publication Manual of the APA does not specifically address citing state legislative documents. For material not specifically covered in the Publication Manual , the APA refers users to The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation.

Note: See page 220 of the Publication Manual (2010) for information on citing state statutes (laws).

The section below concerns bills and reports from state legislative bodies.

Citing state legislative documents can be complicated. Each state has a different numbering system and slightly different governmental bodies.The Bluebook  uses a fairly detailed set of abbreviations for state legistative documents. Your library may have a copy in their Reference section. If not, you will need to use your best judgement for abbreviating, or not, to clearly represent the legislative body.

Remember: Your primary concern is to clearly communicate the citation so that your reader can locate it.

Relevant sections of The Bluebook:

"Citations to state legislative reports, documents, and similiar materials must include the name of the legislative body abbreviated according to tables T6, T9 and T10, the number of the legislative body connected by a hyphen to the number of the report or document, the number of the legislative session, the part or page number on which the material being cited appears, and the year of publication. Unless it is clear from the title or author information appearing in the citation, provide the name of the state abbreviated according to table T10 parenthentically."(The Bluebook, 2010, p.130). 

"Titles of numbered reports or documents may be indicated; if the title is given, the author should also be named." (The Bluebook, 2010, p.130) Note: The author may be an institutional author.

A report:

In the example below, there is no report number and no session number. The governmental body is the New York State Senate and the report was prepared by the Special Task Force on Voter Participation. 

Use your best judgment and include enough information to help your reader locate the document.

 N.Y. Legis. S. Special Task Force on Voter Participation. Making every vote count: report of the Special Task Force on Voter Participation, 2001.

Note: S. = The Bluebook abbreviation for Senate. 

A bill:
When citing state bills and resolutions, include...

the name of the legislative body, abbreviated according to tables T6, T9, and T10*, the number of the bill or resolution, the number of the legislative body, or if not numbered, the year of the body), and the number of designation of the legislative session. Parenthetically indicate the name of the state, abbreviated according to Table T10, and the year of enactment (for an enacted bill or resolution) or the  year of publication (for an unenacted bill or resolution." (The Bluebook, 2010, p. 128)

"Include the name of the bill (if relevant)..." (115); however, as you can see, some titles can be fairly unwieldy. Use your best judgment about whether the title is needed and how much to include.

Sample Bill header:

S T A T E O F N E W Y O R K 300--A 2011-2012 Regular Sessions I N A S S E M B L Y (PREFILED) January 5, 2011A AN ACT to establish a moratorium upon the disposal and/or processing of any fluid which was used in and cuttings from a hydraulic fracturing process outside of the state pending the issuance of a report thereon by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and certain justifica- tions from the department of environmental conservation; and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon the expiration thereof


Obviously, you will need to make some judgment calls about how to cite these documents, remembering to...

a) ensure that your in-text citation leads easily to your Reference List entry
b) Your Reference List entry includes enough information to help your reader locate the item.

If, in your parenthetical reference, you elect to simply mention the bill number, A300, and the date, (A300, 2011) use the bill number as the first element in your Reference List.

A300. Assemb. Reg. Sess. 2011-2012. (N.Y. 2011)

Alternatively, if you decide to use (N.Y. Legis. Assemb, 2011)  as your in-text reference, use this to begin your reference.

N.Y. Legis. Assemb. A-300. Reg. Sess. 2011-2012 (2011)

Note: Use your best judgment, and be sure to include the legislative body, information about the legislative session, the bill number, and the date.