Legislative Resources at the Texas State Library and Archives
Introduction | House and Senate Journals | General and Special Laws | Statutes and Codes | Bill Files | Audiotape Recordings | Committee Files | Constitutional Convention Records
Anyone researching legislative topics will find a number of helpful resources the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC). Below we have compiled information on a variety of resources available at TSLAC and online through other agencies and repositories.
House and Senate Journals
TSLAC holds the House and Senate Journals for the Texas Congresses (1836-1845) and the State Legislatures from the 1st (1846) session forward.
House and Senate Journals are published for every legislative day in a session. The Journals outline proceedings and track legislative action for each chamber. Typical information researchers can find in the Journals includes:
- number, author, and caption of each bill and resolution introduced and the committee to which it is referred
- complete text of committee and floor amendments
- results of each vote taken
- a record of how each member voted, if a record vote has been taken
- a list of bills sent to the governor
- the governor's veto messages
- standing and special committee appointments
- conference committee appointments
- a list of members present
- senate confirmation actions on the governor's appointments (Senate Journal)
There is no compiled index to the House and Senate journals, so someone researching a particular topic over a considerable period of years must consult all of the session journals for information on relevant legislation. Researchers may also use the online resources below:
Legislative Reference Library has digitized House and Senate Journals, including indexes.
House and Senate websites have more recent journals posted:
- Texas House of Representatives (1995-Present)
- Senate Journal Online (1999-Present)
Portal to Texas History has online collection of House and Senate Journals:
More information about the operations of the Texas House and Senate can be found in the various editions of the Texas Legislative Manual, rules of the House, and Senate rules. Current and historic rules are available online from the Legislative Reference Library website.
General and Special Laws
The General and Special Laws are issued by legislative session and provide the text of all bills, joint resolutions, and concurrent resolutions passed into law by each session.
H. P. N. Gammel and C. W. Raines published analytical indexes to the laws of Texas from the period when Texas was part of the state of Coahuila y Texas through 1905. TSLAC has print copies of these to view on-site.
Portal to Texas History has an online collection of Gammel's The Laws of Texas, including the first ten volumes (covering lawas1822-1897) through the 45th (1937) legislature.
Legislative Reference Library has digitized laws from the 12th (1870) through the most recent legislatures. Search their Legislative Archive System.
Texas Legislature Online has a Bill Lookup for more recent bills from the 71st (1989) through the most recent legislatures.
Laws Filed by the Secretary of State
The State Archives has digitized early acts and made them available on the Texas Digital Archive, within the series Legislative Bills and Resolutions Filed. The originals are extremely large and fragile, so requests for copies will be printed from these digitized files. Upon request, staff can also provide certified copies.
Staff can also provide price quotes for reproductions of later laws. The finding aid to our Texas Secretary of State legislative bills and resolutions filed includes information about these records. Please contact us for a price quote by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statutes and Codes
TSLAC holds a number of editions of the civil statutes, codes, digests, and manuals related to Texas legislation.
We have only the most recent edition of Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated in print. The current Texas Constitution and Statutes are also available online.
Texas State Law Library has an online collection of Historical Texas Statutes from 1879-1984.
Original bill files from the Republic Congresses (1836-1845) are housed in the Texas state Archives. Please contact us at email@example.com to request access to these records.
Original bill files for the for the 1st (1846) through the most recent legislatures are part of the holdings of the Legislative Reference Library. Bill files from many legislatures have been digitized and are available from the Legislative Reference Library's Legislative Archive System.
Bill files contain at least one version of the proposed legislation. Often several versions, usually with penciled-in changes to language or content, are present. The committee's recommendation for or against passage (with any proposed amendments) is frequently, but not always included. The bill's backing sheet includes the bill history--the calendar of the bill's progress through committee hearings, floor debate, and vote in one or both houses, complete with the relevant dates. A separate "Bill Analysis" is included in the more recent bill files, but these analyses are infrequent or nonexistent before the 1950s.
TSLAC maintains digitized audio recordings of Senate committee meetings and floor debate from the 62nd Legislature, 4th Called Session (1972) through the 79th Legislature, 3rd Called Session (2006). Researchers can search or browse the recordings on our Texas Senate Recordings Search Page.
Before using this tool, it is helpful to know the bill history: the names of the committees that the bill was referred to, the dates of public hearings, and the dates that the bill had its 2nd and 3rd readings in both the House and the Senate. This information can be found through the Legislative Reference Library's Legislative Archive System.
Note: Legal and physical custody of the original recordings now resides with the Legislative Reference Library. Access to the original records must be requested through the Legislative Reference Library. Digital copies created by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission with grant funding provided by the Library Services and Technology Act, Institute of Museum and Library Services, are available through the Texas Digital Archive.
Digitized recordings from 1999 to the present are available online from the Texas Senate website.
For information on House of Representatives committee meeting recordings, please contact the House Communications, Video/Audio Services office.
The Texas State Archives does not hold the original records of legislative committee files, but does hold some digitized versions of a small number of legislative committee files. These range in date from 1863 to the present, with the bulk of the files dating from the 1950s. Information about these files can be found on our Processed State Records webpage.
Printed committee reports by various legislatures are listed in the card catalog (received before 1976) or in our online catalog.
Original committee files should be requested from the Legislative Reference Library.
Constitutional Convention Records
Texas has had six constitutions since becoming an independent nation in 1836. The records of the 1836 Constitutional Convention are held in the Texas State Archives. The Convention journal is reproduced in the first volume of Gammel's The Laws of Texas .
The records for the Annexation Convention in 1845, and for the Secession Convention of 1861, the Conventions of 1866, 1869, and 1875 are less extensive. See the Processed State Records webpage for links to descriptions of records held at TSLAC.
TSLAC has copies of the printed journals of each of these conventions, and Gammel's Laws contain the ordinances, decrees and constitutions produced by each of these bodies.
Texas Constitutions and published convention records from 1824-1876 are available online from the Tarlton Law Library Web site.
Texas continues to operate under the 1876 Constitution, a document that attempted to control government activity by spelling out in considerable detail matters that were better left to legislation. As a result nearly every legislature has passed one or more amendments to the original 1876 Texas Constitution. Since most amendments change the wording of the actual text of the constitution (unlike the US Constitutional amendments that are added to the text of the original document and change basic procedures or practices), a simple numerical listing of all of the amendments that have been passed is not possible. Also, because the amendments change the text itself, the language of the present-day document varies considerably from that of the 1876 document. Indeed, the language of a current version of the Constitution might vary in many instances from that of the same document in force two years earlier. The amendments to the Texas Constitution are available online from the Legislative Reference Library.
Records of the Constitutional Revision Commission and the Constitutional Convention of 1974 are very extensive. The finding aids for these records are detailed and complex, but they do allow quick access to the specific records that a researcher might require. The finding aids are not online; for more information, contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.