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:
- Interim Reports
- Conference Committee Reports
- House public hearings
- Senate public meetings
- House Research Organization and Senate Research Center reports
- House Committee minutes
- Senate committee minutes
- Texas House and Senate Journals
- Texas Legislative Council materials
Official Links and Guides
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.