LRL Home - Points of Interest - Committees

Legislative Intent in the Minutes

Many LRL researchers are interested in legislative intent—understanding why a bill becomes law, and who proposes ideas or reforms. However, "intent" is not always explicitly spelled out.

 

In more recent years, legislative intent often can be found in bill analyses within the bill files. It sometimes is recorded in the text of the bill or in the house or senate journals.

 

As we work on digitizing past committee minutes, we have also found some instances where legislative intent was added to the record in committee hearings.

Both of these intent documents are noted as reports in the committee minutes database records for their respective committees and sessions. You also can access them via the bills' records in the Legislative Archive System.

 

Conducting legislative research involves consulting a wide range of documents and close attention to detail. But checking everything is worth it—you never know which resource will provide the information you need!

Resource Highlight: Legislative Committee Minutes Online

The following legislative committee minutes in the LRL collection are scanned and available on our Committee minutes and related documents page:

 

House: 42nd – 77th

Senate: 27th – 77th

Interim: 38th – 77th

 

We most recently added interim minutes from the 62nd Legislature (1971-1972). As always, some committees are unique (see the interim committees on vegetable marketing and imported fire ant infestation), and others address major issues like school finance and coastal resources that the Legislature continues to work on today.

 

Minutes and other committee records from the 77th Legislature (2001) onward are available via Texas Legislature Online.

Research Minute: Committee Resources

With Senate and House committees appointed and meetings underway, do you need to know more about a certain committee? The Library has many helpful resources in the Committees section of our website. You can...

 

 

Resource Highlight: Senate Standing Committee Minutes Before 1973

House and Senate committee minutes are a valuable resource for understanding the work that goes into crafting legislation. Senate standing committee minutes in the Legislative Reference Library collection from before 1973 have been scanned and are available in the LRL's committee minutes database

 

Scanned minutes, particularly from earlier sessions, may also include other committee documentation, including agendas, exhibits, hearing notices, press releases, rules, testimony, transcripts, and vote sheets. Some interesting examples include:

Other interesting items include the minutes of the 60th Legislature's Senate Public Health Committee, which include a notebook containing bills with analysis and comment, and the legal paperwork surrounding the Committee of the Whole Senate (76th) – Election of Lieutenant Governor, convened to select the lieutenant governor when Rick Perry vacated the seat to become governor.

 

Note that some of the investigation committees' transcripts are best accessed using the committee search function.

 

The LRL database also allows users access to committee documents from House, Senate, and Joint committees, 63rd–77th Legislatures (1973–2001), as well as to search for minutes from the 78th–85th Legislatures that are available through Texas Legislature Online.

 

Visit our blog post about House standing committee minutes prior to 1973 to learn more about those resources.

Research Minute: Linked Minutes Available for 63rd–77th Legislatures

Scanned committee minutes have been linked to bills in the Legislative Archive System (LAS) for the 63rd–77th Legislatures (1973–2001).

 

If we have committee minutes for a bill in that time period, there will be a "Committee information" tab in the bill's LAS record, and you can see links to committee minutes at the bottom of the History tab view.

 

Linking bills to scanned minutes from the 62nd Legislature and prior is underway. You also can search minutes by committee name, chamber, and session. More recent committee minutes can be accessed via the Committees tab on Texas Legislature Online.

Resource Highlight: House Standing Committee Minutes Before 1973

House and Senate committee minutes are a valuable resource for understanding the work that goes into crafting legislation. House standing committee minutes in the Legislative Reference Library collection from before 1973 have been scanned and are available in the LRL's committee minutes database

 

Scanned minutes, particularly from earlier sessions, may also include other committee documentation, including agendas, exhibits, hearing notices, press releases, rules, testimony, transcripts, and vote sheets. For example:

The LRL database also allows users access to committee documents from House, Senate, and Joint committees, 63rd–77th Legislatures (1973–2001), as well as to search for minutes from the 78th–85th Legislatures that are available through Texas Legislature Online.

 

The digitization of the Senate standing committee minutes prior to 1973 is in process.

 

Image: On April 9, 1969, several leaders from the Baylor College of Medicine, including Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, testified before the House and Senate's respective State Affairs committees, offering possible solutions for the state's physician shortage.

63rd–77th Legislatures Committee Minutes Available Online

Committee minutes of the 77th Legislature (House, Senate, and Joint, 2001–2002) have been scanned and are available in the LRL's committee minutes database. Our database now contains scanned minutes for the 63rd–77th Legislatures (1973–2001).

In addition to the information typically included in minutes, a variety of interesting supplemental resources, reports, maps, and transcripts are available. (Some of these PDFs include bookmarks to enhance navigation.) For example:

The LRL database also allows users to search for committee documents from the 78th–85th Legislatures that are available through Texas Legislature Online.

The committee minutes database will continue to grow as we scan older minutes before 1973 in our collection.

Images, left to right: 

The Joint Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Uninsured held meetings in various Texas cities, such as this one in Harlingen, as they examined the problem of Texans who lack health insurance.

If you’re interested in contested elections, you can use the committee search (http://www.lrl.texas.gov/committees/cmteSearch.cfm) to find election committee records. Election contests usually fall to a select/special committee, like the Special House Committee on Privileges and Elections, 66th R.S., that reviewed the contest between Kae Patrick and Donald Cartwright for the election of a representative from District 57H.

Research Minute: Finding Committee Minutes and Testimony

When you're researching a bill, committee minutes and testimony are great resources. To find these records, you'll need to know:

 

  • names of the house and/or senate committees to which the bill was referred, and
  • dates the bill was considered by committee or subcommittee in public hearings.

 

Find this information by searching Texas Legislature Online (TLO) (1989-present) and/or the Legislative Archive System (LAS) (which has committee information from 1973-present). Enter the bill number, making sure to select the correct chamber and session/year. For HB 1558, 84R, the History tab indicates that the bill was assigned to the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence committee and then the Senate State Affairs committee.

 

Next, select the Actions tab and scan the list to find "public hearing." HB 1558, 84R was considered in a house committee public hearing on April 14, 2015, and in a senate committee public hearing on May 14, 2015. You can tell which chamber by the "H" or "S" on the far left.

 
 

 

Now, go back and click on those committee links on the History tab. (This part will only work in TLO.) You'll see a list of the committee members for that session, and on the right, a "Meetings" link. Click here to see a list of all of the meetings the committee conducted in that session. Find the hearing date you determined from the action list to access its hearing notice, minutes, and witness list. Since multiple bills often are considered in a single hearing, do a Control-F for your bill number to find the relevant sections. You can also look on the websites for each of the committees (House, Senate), as they sometimes include meeting handouts and transcripts for the current session.

 

 

You then can use the committee names and hearing dates to search for the relevant recordings in the house and senate video archives (for which links also are available on TLO and on the "Additional sources" tab in a LAS search). There is a chart in our legislative intent guide with more information about which dates are available online or on audio tape. Transcripts are rare, but House Video/Audio Services (512-463-0920) or Senate Staff Services (512-463-0430) may have transcripts or know if one exists (perhaps with the committee records) for a certain committee hearing.

 

Another avenue of committee testimony research is the LRL's committee minutes project, which makes available minutes and related documents for house, senate, and joint committees from the 63rd-74th Legislatures (1973-1995). Some have testimony transcripts--it is always worthwhile to check.

 

For example, a search in the committee minutes database for the Senate Committee on Finance, 72R (1991) yields 92 days' worth of scanned meeting minutes. Most of the documents summarize the proceedings of the meeting and simply make note when testimony was taken, but the March 5, 1991, minutes includes a transcript.

 

The committee minutes database includes interim committees, so even if you don't have a particular bill in mind, searching here can be helpful for many legislative history projects.

 

 

Cover image by Flickr user hyacinth50.