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Texas Legislative History Research  

When the actual meaning of a statute is unclear, courts turn to legislative intent.
Last Updated: Feb 27, 2014 URL: http://libguides.stcl.edu/TexasLegislativeHistory Print Guide RSS Updates

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Introduction

Sometimes the meaning of a statutory or constitutional provision is unclear. Legislative history is a compilation of official materials which shed light on the reasoning and intent of legislators in enacting a particular statute or constitutional amendment. When this occurs, courts will explore "legislative history" in interpreting its meaning. Some documents carry more weight than others with the courts when they interpret legislative history.

 

Texas LRL - the Starting Point for Legislative History Research

Before the Texas Legislature Online and the Legislative Reference Library of Texas sites were created to make legislative history documents available online, compiling Texas legislative history was onerous. These two sites contain valuable tutorial and educational materials on the Texas legislative process and links to the Texas Constitution, Statutes and Codes.This is a work in progress. Presently its archives date to the 54th Legislative Session.

 

Official Documents of Legislative History

The following official documents are used to compile legislative history  These are listed roughly in the order of importance:

      

 

Official Links and Guides

  • Texas Legislative Reference Library
    The Legislative Reference Library’s site should be the starting point for all legislative history research. The LRL has an ongoing digitization initiative. Therefore, the availability of digital images increases daily. It also has links to Texas Legislature Online. Start by looking at LRL's tutorial on compiling legislative intent. It is wise to visit all of the listed sites when compiling Texas legislative history.
  • Texas Legislative Council (TLC)  
      
    This largely unknown agency is very powerful and provides the oil that lubricates the legislative process in Texas. One of its most important functions is the over thirty year effort to transfer Texas law from the old statutes to subject matter codes. See http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/legal/code.html. This effort affects Texas legislative history because the revisers have to provide mostly unsubstantive changes in rewriting the law and avoid disturbing the sense of the original legislation.
  • Texas Legislature Online
    Official site of the Texas Legislature. Contains text and some legislative history of current and past introduced and enacted bills.
  • House Research Organization
    An independent arm of the Texas Legislature governed by legislators from both parties. The HRO conducts and publishes research, bill analyses, and daily floor reports.
  • Senate Research Organization
    Provides research and bill analysis for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and the Senate.
  • TLC - Guide to Texas Legislative Information (GTLI)
    This feature is described by the TLC: "The purpose of the GTLI website is to help legislators, other state officials and employees, and interested citizens in researching the work of past legislatures and in tracking the work of the current legislature."
  • Texas Legislative Council - Glossary
    A glossary of terms used to describe the Texas legislative process.
  • Texas Attorney General Opinions
    In giving advice to state officials, the attorney general may opine on legislative history.
  • Fred Parks Blog Entry on Historical Texas Statutes
 

Tips for Searching the Legislative Reference Library Site

1. Bill-chapter cross-reference tables. You must have a bill or chapter number to do legislative history research. (Bills that are introduced but not passed will not have a chapter reference in the session laws. The great feature of this cross reference table is that you can browse all bills introduced for an entire session.  If a bill was passed a chapter number will be indicated.   Click on the bill number and the link will take you to Texas Legislature Online.You can also populate the table with only bills that are engrossed or enrolled.  Engrossed bills are those passed by one chamber and are ready for forwarding to the other.  Enrolled bills are those passed by both houses and await signature by the presiding officers of both houses and forwarding to the govenor.

2. Bill search - Bills from the 1870 session onward are available.

3. Legislative Archive System  - The Bill Search feature and the Legislative Archive System have now been combined.  All information about a particular bill can be found in one search.

5. Legislative Reports - Use this interface to find all legislative reports, including the interim and conference committee reports. Important to note:  Legislative reports are not necessarily completed during the legislative session in which the bill you are researching is signed into law. It is better not to specify a time period for the document at first. 

6. Interim Reports (Committee Charges) - Use the "Search Committee Charges" box at the Legislative Reports search feature. An interim committee is composed of a group of legislators appointed by the presiding officer of the house or senate. When the legislature is not in session the committee studies a particular issue or group of issues and makes recommendations to the next legislature. These important documents can be found on the LRL. Since these reports are issued in between sessions, search for them over a span of years not just in one legislative session. It is better to do a broad subject or committee search for any legislative session.

 

Legislative History Information in Vernon's Texas Statutes amd Codes

Texas has designated West publishers to publish the official version of its statutes and codes. The series is called Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes or Vernon's Texas Statutes Annotated.  Here are images from partial pages of the Texas Probate Code Section 37.  They demonstrate legislative history information contained in Vernon's.

Section 37 Probate Code with historical references

 

Section 37 Probate Code with historical references

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