Overview of Resources for Legislative Research

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House and Senate Journals | General and Special Laws | Statutes and Codes | Bill Files | Audiotape Recordings | Committee Files | Record Copy of Laws | Constitutional Convention Records


Anyone researching legislative topics will find a number of resources in the Texas State Archives and Reference/Documents Collections.

House and Senate Journals

Print sources include House and Senate Journals for the Texas Congresses (1836-1845) and the State Legislatures from the 1st (1846) session forward, along with the General and Special Laws passed by these legislative bodies.

House and Senate Journals, published for every legislative day in a session, outline proceedings and track legislative action for each chamber. Information available in the publications include:

  • 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.  Many House and Senate journals have been digitized and are available from the Legislative Reference Library Web site.

Some additional 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 Web site. 

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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. Gammel's  The Laws of Texas have been digitized and are available online from the 1st (1846) through the 37th (1921) legislatures.  Later laws are available online from the Legislative Reference Library. Researchers may also review each session's laws for laws enacted on a particular subject.

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Statutes and Codes

The  holdings of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission include a number of editions of the civil statutes, codes, digests, and manuals related to Texas legislation including Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated.  Statutes are also available online from the Texas Legislature Online

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Bill Files

Original bill files from the Republic Congresses and for the 1st (1846) through the 62nd (1972) Legislatures are housed in the Texas State Archives. Bill files for the 63rd (1973) and following sessions are part of the holdings of the Legislative Reference Library.  Bill files from the 50th (1947) through 77th (2001) legislatures have been digitized and are available from the Legislative Reference Library Web site. 

All bill files contain at least one version of the proposed legislation. Often a number of 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.

When requesting a bill file, the researcher must specify the bill number and legislative session; e.g., HB145, 35th Legislature, 1st Called Session. The researcher can locate the appropriate bill number either by consulting the printed laws (for successful legislation) or the senate or house journals (for bill numbers of those that failed to pass). If the researcher cannot provide the bill number, but does have the citation to session, chapter and page number from the legislative history from Vernon's or West's Statutes and Codes, the staff can locate the bill number.

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Audiotape Recordings

The Texas State Archives holds audiotape recordings of Senate committee meetings and floor debate from  the 4th Called Session of the 62nd Legislature (1972) through the 3rd Called Session of the 79th Legislature (2006). In order to listen to these tapes, you need 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). Copies of the recordings may be obtained for a nominal fee. Senate recordings from the 4th Called Session of the 62nd Legislature (1972) through the 65th Legislature (1978) and the 74th Legislature (1995) have been digitized and are available online from our Web site and digitized recordings from 1999 to the present are available online from the Texas Senate Web site.

For information on House of Representatives committee meeting recordings, please contact the House Communications, Video/Audio Services office.

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Committee Files

The Texas State Archives has 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 Web page.

Printed committee reports by various legislatures are listed in the card catalog (received before 1976) or in our online catalog.

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Record Copy of Laws

Requests for copies of laws passed by legislative bodies in Texas usually are answered by copying the printed version of the act in either Gammel's Laws or in the later volumes of the General and Special Laws of Texas.  Gammel's The Laws of Texas have been digitized and are available online.  Later laws are available online from the Legislative Reference Library.

To respond to requests for copies of the laws, the staff need the session of the legislature and whether the act was a general or a special law. If the researcher can provide the chapter and page number (usually found in Vernon's or West's Statutes and Codes), it will reduce the time needed to respond to a copy request.

In some cases, the patron might require a reproduction of the record copy of an act. The 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. Please contact us for a price quote by sending an email to ref@tsl.texas.gov.

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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. The Texas State Archives 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 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 U. S. 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 Web site and from the Texas Legislative Council Web site. 

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 at this time.

 

Page last modified: February 4, 2019