State Legislative History

Compiling State Legislative Histories

by Marianne Mason

Since statutory language is written broadly and can be ambiguous, it is often the researcher's job to determine the precise meaning of a statutory provision. That determination is the primary purpose of compiling a "legislative history." The secondary function of a legislative history is to document the legislative process through the record of publications associated with a piece of legislation. Although the need to determine intent is just as valuable for state statutes as for federal statutes, the research sources available on the state level are far less abundant and the research process is much more fragmented.

LEGISLATIVE PUBLICATIONS , the various documents needed to trace the legislative process, are generally unavailable and vary widely from one state to the next.

SECONDARY SOURCES may the most helpful tools in determining the intent of legislation.

THE INTERNET is allowing a growing number of state legislative bodies to expand the accessibility of state materials and often include bill tracking and bill digest features.

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