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Resource Highlight: Parliamentary Manuals

Want to improve your knowledge of parliamentary procedures before the 86th Legislature begins? The LRL has a resource guide for you! You can download Resources in Parliamentary Procedure as a PDF, peruse it on our website, or check out a physical copy.


Of course, studying Texas parliamentary procedure starts with the House and Senate Rules. When House and Senate rules are silent, the Legislature relies on resources such as Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure and the practice of the United States Congress as reflected in published precedents such as Hinds’ Precedents and Cannon’s Precedents (see House Rule 14, Section 1, and Senate Rule 20.01).  Additional reference materials available in the LRL include the Texas Legislative Manual, historic Texas legislative procedure and rules materials, other congressional guides and precedents, constitutional reference materials, Hugh Brady's editions on Texas house and senate practices, and more. When available, the guide links to digitized resources.


Images, left to right: The Texas Legislative Manual; Constitution, Jefferson's Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives; Texas House Rules; Senate Manual; and [Texas] Senate Rules are significant resources for understanding parliamentary procedure in Texas.


Senate Parliamentarian Noel Brown and House Parliamentarian Collier Read Granberry review a legislative manual for the 50th Legislature (1947). Collier Read Granberry Papers, Box 3Y92, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Research Minute: Finding Interim Charges

We’ve been sharing regular posts about upcoming interim hearings…but are you wondering where you can find information about all of the committees and the 350 charges? Currently, we have a link to the interim charges list on our homepage to make them easy to find. However, you also can use the Committees section of the LRL website to refine your research. 

  • Using Committees by session, you can see a list of all of the committees, and click on the committee’s name to view its interim charges. (Note that not all of the committees have received charges.) You also can select past sessions to view charges, committee members, etc., from past Legislatures. 
  • If you are looking for a particular committee, you can use Committee search to navigate directly to its page.
  • On our Legislative reports page, you can search committee charges in the second section of the page. Here, if you want to find every committee that has been assigned a topic that could potentially fall in the purview of multiple committees, you can use the “subject” or “charge text” box to search for that term. (See subject search results for "prescription drugs" below.)

When committees start submitting their reports in the months just before the next legislative session, you also can search on the legislative reports page to find those items.


Research Minute: Learning about Texas Governors

Although our primary focus is on Texas' legislative branch, the LRL maintains a Texas Governors database with a myriad of resources. In addition to providing biographical information on Texas governors, 1846-present, it features a searchable database of executive documents. You can search by governor, document type (executive order, message, proclamation, speech, veto, and other), date of publication, keyword, and session. 

To see the complete list of Texas governors with party affiliation, years in office, and legislatures as governor, click here

We also have a few popular searches saved, making it easy to find inaugural items, the governor's emergency matters and budgets, and disaster declarations (from 2001-present) (see below).

Research Minute: Legislators and Leaders Resources

Seeking information about Texas’ elected leadership? The Legislators and Leaders section of our website compiles myriad resources to aid your research. You can…


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.

Research Minute: Finding Sunset Bills

Every legislative session, about 20-30 agencies go through the Sunset process—the regular assessment of the continuing need for a state agency or program to exist. The Sunset Advisory Commission submitted its Report to the 85th Legislature on Friday, Feb. 10. Per Sunset procedures, an agency, program, policy, or law will be abolished on its "sunset" date unless the legislature passes a bill to continue it. Such bills often enact revised policies as recommended in the review process.

Wondering how you can find these bills? The Sunset Commission recently added a page dedicated to the 85th Legislature where you can see which agencies were reviewed and what bills have been filed. They also are tweeting Sunset bills as they are filed.


In addition, you can find Sunset bills on Texas Legislature Online. Select "Search" from the top navigation, and pull down to "Bill Search." From that screen, go to the Subjects section and click on "Select subject criteria." This will pull up the box as seen below. (If your pop-up blocker is enabled, you may have to tell it to allow this exception.) Do a search for "sunset," then select "Sunset--Commission Bills (I0772). Click on the right arrow to move it to your "Selected" subjects, then click OK to return to the main Bill Search screen.

From here, you can click on "Search" in the top right corner, and you will get your results. You can refine your results to particular subjects of interest, look back at past years' sunset bills, and more.


Twitter: It's Not Just for Tweeting

Part of what makes good research is using the latest, up-to-date information. In today's fast-paced information environment, publications and reports that are even a year old can be outdated, especially if they are discussing legislation. 
How do you keep up with new publications on topics that interest you? It turns out that a variety of tools are available. Some people customize their Google News page, while others monitor blogs or RSS feeds. If you're a Twitter user, have you ever thought to build a Twitter list to monitor new developments?  
Creating Twitter lists is a great way to distill your Twitter feed into useful, subject-oriented feeds. Viewing a list on Twitter shows you only the tweets of the Twitter users included on that list, and can be helpful if you follow a wide variety of people or organizations.
Instructions for building a Twitter list are here. You do not have to organize everyone you follow into a list, and you can create as many or as few lists as you like. At no point do you lose the ability to view your normal feed, which shows you the tweets of everyone you follow.
Here's an example of a list we built for our own use at the library. After the end of the 83rd Regular Session, we wanted to make sure we didn't miss any of the session wrap-ups that state agencies, boards and commissions often publish to summarize legislation in their area. Not all of these entities are on Twitter, but many are, and they are pretty good about tweeting new information related to their agency. We located their Twitter accounts, and organized them into a Twitter list named "State agencies." Being able to monitor state agency updates in a smaller, concentrated feed was an effective strategy for catching session wrap-ups as they were released.  
State agencies Twitter list
The state agencies list is just one of the Twitter lists we have built for our use here at the library. We also use Twitter lists to monitor various research organizations, as well as keep up with the legal world in Texas. One of our most heavily-used lists brings together the tweets of all current Texas legislators who are on Twitter.  A screenshot of the TXLegislators list on Twitter is below, and you can also view the list on our website at Texas Legislators on Twitter
Texas Legislators on Twitter

Drought, Blue Devils, and Public Schools: Explore Texas History with LAS

Texas Temporary Capitol buildingTexas was suffering from a severe drought. Transportation planning, taxes, and public school finance were topics of debate.  It sounds familiar – but this was the nineteenth century, not the twenty-first. 

In 1883, the 18th Legislature passed, and voters approved, a constitutional amendment providing for an ad valorem tax for the support of public schools, but additional legislation was needed. 
The San Antonio Light reports on fence cutting
Meanwhile, the drought exacerbated conflicts between landless cowboys and ranchers who had fenced their land – and occasionally neighboring public land – with barbed wire. Desperate to find water and grazing for their herds, organized bands of cowboys with names like Blue Devils and Javelinas took to cutting fences, causing millions of dollars of damage. 
The conflict between cattle ranchers and fence cutters was reaching the point of crisis; landowners demanded action, but there were no laws that would allow an adequate response.
In January of 1884, Governor Ireland called the Legislature into special session to address public school finance, fence cutting, and other issues. By the end of the special session, laws had been passed to make the willful cutting of fences a crime; to forbid landowners from fencing public lands; to alter the system of school finance; and to improve county roads.

Whether you are interested historical issues, like the fence-cutting wars, or in subjects of recurring interest, like school finance and transportation, the Legislative Archive System can help. With the Legislative Archive System, you can search for passed legislation back to 1883 by bill number, session law chapter, and caption. 

Additional search options and resources
are available for more recent sessions. For assistance using LAS, please contact the library.

Use NCSL Databases to Research Legislation from all 50 States

Interested in recent state legislation related to federal health care laws?  Do you ever need to see what state legislatures are doing about immigration, juvenile justice or other important topics?
Searchable bill databases created by the National Conference of State Legislatures can help.
Each database covers a different topic, and can be searched by state, topic, and keyword.   Search results include a summary of each bill, along with bill numbers and bill status and history information.  Most databases are updated every two weeks.

Getting The Most From Google

You can find almost anything in Google, but have you ever wondered if you're searching in the most efficient way? If so, take a look at some of the tips and shortcuts explained in the links below. Google can do amazing things in one click, like find population and unemployment rates, define any word or phrase, or even help you track the status of arriving or departing U.S. flights. It also has the capacity to handle precise word searching, allowing you to narrow your search results and save time.  For learning these tips and tricks, we liked the three websites below, however additional information can be found by visiting Google's Inside Search Features page.

Google Search Features: Learn about the different types of information you can find in one click, as well as more advanced search techniques like searching on the synonym of your search term, or using the plus (+) operator. 

Google Search Features 

Basic Search Help
: This page contains general recommendations for getting the best out of your Google search. Among other things, the folks at Google suggest keeping your search simple by using as few terms as possible and by using highly descriptive (unique) words.

More Search Help: Highlights the more advanced Google search features. Learn how to search for phrases instead of single words, search within a specific website, or exclude terms from your search.