When researching legislative intent, you may need to examine a wide range of documents:
- Session Laws
- Bill Histories
- Bill Files
- Bill Analyses
- Audio recordings of legislative discussions
- House & Senate audio/video web archives
- House and Senate Journals
- House & Senate Committee Minutes
- Legislative Council Documents, including Statutory Revision program, Revisor's Reports
- Session Summaries
- Analyses of Proposed Constitutional Amendments
- Newspaper Clippings
Statutes are the codified version of the laws, available at Texas Legislature Online and published by Thomson West as Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated. The complete set of Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated is available at the Legislative Reference Library and may be available at other major Texas libraries.
General and Special Laws of the State of Texas, also called the "Session Laws," are a compilation of all the bills, joint and concurrent resolutions enacted in a particular session, arranged by chapter number and published by the Texas Secretary of State. Session laws are available at the Legislative Reference Library and and may be available at other major Texas libraries.
The bill history is a list of all legislative actions on a bill and the dates on which each action took place, and the House or Senate journal page number.
|71st (1989) forward||Electronic||Texas Legislature Online, click on "Actions."|
|63rd (1973) - 71st (1989)||Electronic|| Legislative Archive System
Scanned bill history indexes from the Legislative Reference Library website. Bill histories are available in groups of 100 bills.
|1st (1846) - 62nd (1971)||Print & electronic||House and Senate Journals, available at the Legislative Reference Library, the Texas State Archives, and online. Look up your bill number in the index, located in the last volume of the journals for a particular session.|
Below is a sample bill history. The H's and S's to the left of the action indicate whether the action occurred in the House or the Senate. The page numbers at the far right show pages in the House and Senate Journals that include bill entries. For dates of legislative discussion, necessary for obtaining audio tapes, note the actions of "considered in public hearing" and the committee name, "read 2nd time," and "read 3rd time," and the dates each occurred.
|H||Referred to Insurance [Committee name]||3/12/97||1100|
|H||Considered in Public Hearing||3/14/97   [Date, may be more than one]|
|H||Read 2nd time||3/25/97||1105|
|H||Read 3rd time||3/25/97||1110|
|S||Referred to Business and Commerce||4/13/97||300|
|S||Considered in Public Hearing||4/15/97|
|S||Read 2nd time||4/20/97||305|
|S||Read 3rd time||4/21/97||320|
If you know the bill number and the legislative session in which it was introduced, you can examine the bill file in the Legislative Reference Library's Legislative Archive System. The bill file is the collection of official documents produced during the bill's movement through the legislative process, and may contain:
- Introduced version
- House committee report with vote sheet and bill analysis
- Engrossed version
- Senate committee report with vote sheet
- Senate amendments printing
- Conference committee report with side-by-side analysis
- Enrolled version
- Fiscal notes
- Senate Research Center bill analyses
Bill File Availability By Session and Format
|73rd (1993) forward||Electronic||Texas Legislature Online. Paper copies of bills from the current legislative session are also available from the bill distribution offices (House 512-463-1144, Senate 512-463-0252).|
|30th (19047) – 79th (2005)||Electronic||Legislative Archive System|
|1st (1846) - present||Legislative Reference Library. Appointment required.|
Certified bill files are available by request. Please contact the library at (512) 463-1252 for more information.
There are several types of bill analyses produced during the legislative process. Each one is produced at a certain point in time by a specific legislative entity. Copies of most bill analyses are available in the library's Legislative Archive System as well as other locations.
Texas Legislative Council Research Division Bill Analysis
The Texas Legislative Council Research Division, with the 81st Legislative Session, began offering bill analysis services on request. Research Division staff members prepare bill analyses for measures that have been scheduled for a House committee hearing and for measures that have been reported from a House committee.
House Committee Bill Analyses
In the 63rd Legislature (1973), House Committee staff began producing bill analyses, documents that give a short statement of purpose and a summary of each section of a bill. From the 63rd through the 75th Legislatures, these analyses were prepared on the House Committee version of the bill, not the enrolled (final) version.
Copies of analyses are available through the Legislative Reference Library in the Legislative Archive System and in the original bill files. If your bill is from the 74th Legislature (1995) or later, the analysis is available on Texas Legislature Online.
Office of House Bill Analysis
During the 76th (1999) and 77th (2001) Legislatures, responsibility for House bill analyses was taken over by the Office of House Bill Analysis. In the 78th Legislature, this office was abolished and bill analysis responsibilities were returned to the House committees.
The Office of House Bill Analysis prepared analyses on house introduced versions, house committee printings, senate engrossed versions, and house enrolled versions. The four primary components of these analyses were: Background and Purpose, Rulemaking Authority, Analysis, and Effective Date. An additional section was added when bills were reported from committee with amendments or a substitute.
Analyses for bills that were voted out of committee are included in the bill files located in the LRL as well as through the Texas Legislature Online. Analyses for bills that were not voted out of committee are available only in electronic format through the Texas Legislature Online.
House Research Organization (HRO) Bill Analyses
In the 64th Legislature (1975), the HRO began preparing the Daily Floor Report, a document containing bill analyses or digests of selected bills. While they are not part of the bill file, HRO analyses may provide useful legislative commentary. Components of an HRO bill analysis include the Subject, Committee, Votes, Witnesses, Background, Digest, what Supporters Say, what Opponents Say, and Notes regarding legislative history or similar bills considered in the same or previous sessions. For more details on the background, development, and components of HRO bill analyses, see the HRO Daily Floor Report, March 5, 1997, 75th Legislature, Number 29.
HRO analyses are only prepared on selected bills at the time of their second reading in the House and do not reflect changes made to the bill later in the legislative process. To locate the bill analysis, you must either know the date of the second reading in the House or use the index to the Daily Floor Report. To find the date of the second reading, review the bill history.
Copies of analyses are available at the Legislative Reference Library in the Legislative Archive System and in bound volumes. If your bill is from the 74th Legislature (1995) forward, the HRO analysis is available on the House Research Organization web site.
Senate Research Center (SRC) Bill Analyses
In the 73rd Legislature (1993), the SRC began preparing a bill analysis on every version of every Senate bill, as well as the engrossed version of House bills, and on every enrolled bill. SRC analyses include five main sections: Digest, Purpose, Rulemaking Authority, Section-by-Section, and Summary of Committee Changes. More information is available at the Senate Research Center web site.
Copies of analyses are available through the Legislative Reference Library in the Legislative Archive System, in the original bill files, and in bound volumes. Selected SRC analyses for the 74th Legislature (1995) forward are also available on Texas Legislature Online.
Conference Committee Report Side-by-Side Analyses
In the 63rd Legislature (1973), conference committee staff began preparing side-by-side analyses comparing the House and Senate versions of a bill. If a bill goes to conference committee, the side-by-side analysis becomes part of the Conference Committee Report and is included in the bill file. To determine whether a bill went to conference committee, check the bill actions on Texas Legislature Online or the bill history indexes at the Legislative Reference Library.
Copies of analyses are available through the Legislative Reference Library in the Legislative Archive System and in the original bill files.
Audio Recordings of Legislative Discussion
In the 63rd Legislature session (1973), the Legislature began audio taping public hearings held by committees and the floor debates in the House and the Senate. Audio tapes are often the best source of information on legislative intent. Because transcripts of committee meetings are seldom produced, listening to audio tapes is often necessary. Transcripts are rare, but if available, they will be housed with the tapes in the media offices.
In order to listen to or order these tapes, you will need the following from the bill history:
- names of the House and/or Senate committees to which the bill was referred,
- dates the bill was considered by committee or subcommittee in public hearings, and
- dates of the bill's second and third readings in the House and/or the Senate.
Formal meetings are not routinely recorded, but you may contact House and Senate Media to determine if a recording of a formal meeting exists.
Format and availability
Recordings are available in tape or digital format depending on the legislative session. For some sessions, recordings are available in both tape and digital formats.
|77th Legislature (2001) to present||House||Online||-|
|63rd Legislature (1973) to present||House||Audio tape||Requests must be in writing. Ordering information|
|63rd Legislature (1973) to 68th Legislature (1983)||House||Online||Texas State Library and Archives Commission Texas Digital Archive.|
|76th Legislature (from March 1999) to present||Senate||Online||-|
|79th Legislature (2005) - present||Senate||Audio tape or CD||Ordering information|
|62nd Legislature, 4th Called Session (Sep. 18 - Oct. 17, 1972) to 79th Legislature, 3rd Called Session (Apr. 17 - May 16, 2006)||Senate||Online||The original tapes are housed at the Legislative Reference Library. Due to preservation concerns for the original cassette tapes, patrons are no longer able to listen to the original tapes. Digitized copies of the Senate recordings are available from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.|
House and Senate Journals
The House and Senate Journals are the official proceedings of the House of Representatives and Senate. To use the Journals, look up your bill number in the bill history index in the last volume of the journals for a particular session. Here you will find the actions on your bill and page numbers on which they occurred. If the bill was considered in both chambers, you will need to review bill history in both the House and Senate Journals.
In general, House and Senate Journals do not contain printed debate on bills. Audio tapes are often the best resource for ascertaining the actual legislative discussion, but Journals may contain items of interest to researchers such as statements of legislative intent.
Statements of Legislative Intent
On rare occasions, statements of legislative intent will be recorded into the House and the Senate Journals. Individuals who are compiling legislative intent should always check the House and Senate Journals rather than relying on a bill's actions to signal such a statement. In recent sessions, care has been taken to include references to statements of legislative intent in the list of actions on a bill, or bill history. Prior to the 75th Legislature, however, statements of intent were inconsistently reflected in the actions.
House & Senate Committee Minutes
Minutes are the summary of committee proceedings; Committee minutes from the 63rd Legislature (1973) to the present can be found on the library website using the Committee search. Minutes from the 74th Legislature (1995) to the present are on Texas Legislature Online.
Statutory Revision and Revisor's Reports
If a bill's caption shows that it was a "nonsubstantive" revision, correction, or addition, this indicates the bill was part of the Texas Legislative Council's Statutory Revision Program. The Council is required by Texas Government Code, Section 323.007 to carry out a complete nonsubstantive revision of the Texas Statutes but "may not alter the sense, meaning, or effect of the statute" (Texas Government Code, Section 323.007). If you are researching a nonsubstantive revision, there may be brief bill analyses available through the Legislative Reference Library, but you may need to review the statute's Prior Laws and research an earlier bill. For further information, see Section 8.09, Continuing Statutory Revision Program, in the Texas Legislative Council Drafting Manual.
You can find the revisor's reports and related legislation by Texas Legislative Council on our Texas Law Time Line. The reports contain the Source Law, Revised Law, and may contain a Revisor's Note describing the change.
Summaries are publications by various legislative offices providing previews and overviews of a particular session, including Summary of Enactments by the Texas Legislative Council, Issues and Highlights of the __ Texas Legislature by the Senate Research Center, and Topics and Major Issues of the ___ Legislature by the House Research Organization. Summaries available here
Constitutional Amendments are changes to the Texas state constitution, proposed by the legislature in the form of a joint resolution and submitted to voters for approval. You can search for amendments (both approved and defeated by voters), view reports analyzing proposed amendments, and see a list of constitutional amendment election dates.
The Legislative Reference Library's newspaper clipping service, which includes articles of interest from thirty state and national newspapers, is another source of background material and historical perspective. Past clips, dating back to the 1920s, may be searched on terminals in the Library. In addition, you may search newspaper clippings by bill number for bills in the 74th Legislature (1995) forward.