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Texas Legislative History Research

A guide to walk you through the process of compiling legislative history of Texas legislation

General Information

Compiled legislative histories are not available; a researcher will have to compile the materials themselves. 

The Texas Legislative Council has put together a website with information on the legislative process in Texas, which is linked below.  Reviewing this page may assist researchers in understanding the contents of a bill file.

It may also be helpful to consult the Texas Legislative Reference Library's PDF brochure on compiling Texas legislative history.  The brochure is also linked below.

Search Example

You will be walked through the steps of compiling a legislative history for the law pertaining to the composition of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission as an example throughout this guide.

Texas Statute on Statutory Construction

Texas Government Code Sec. 311.023.  Statute Construction Aids.

In construing a statute, whether or not the statute is considered ambiguous on its face, a court may consider among other matters the:

  1. object sought to be attained;
  2. circumstances under which the statute was enacted;
  3. legislative history;
  4. common law or former statutory provisions, including laws on the same or similar subjects;
  5. consequences of a particular construction;
  6. administrative construction of the statute; and
  7. title (caption), preamble, and emergency provision.

Steps for Compiling Legislative History

This guide will focus on using freely available sources of law to compile a Texas legislative history, though Lexis and Westlaw are discussed on their own tabs.  There are five steps involved in compiling a legislative history of Texas legislation:

  1. Determine the bill and session (or year) numbers of the legislation that enacted the statutory language
  2. Examine the bill file
  3. Find the bill history
  4. Listen to tape recordings or view documents from committee hearings and floor debates
  5. Consult other relevant documents

Each step will be detailed on the tabbed pages above.

Note: if you are beginning from the subject of the legislation, the Vernon's statute citation, or session law chapter number, begin your research with Step 1; if you already have the bill and session (or year) numbers, begin with Step 2.

It is possible to compile a complete Texas legislative history using only freely available resources.  If you would like to use Lexis or Westlaw, information about their Texas legislative databases is on a tab for each service, above.  Please note that these databases may not contain complete references or resources.

How the Texas Legislature Meets

The Legislature meets in regular session on the second Tuesday in January of each odd-numbered year, and the Texas Constitution limits the regular session to 140 calendar days. The Legislature may also meet in special, or "called," sessions. Only the Governor may call the Legislature into special sessions, for as many sessions as desired. The Texas Constitution limits each special session to 30 days; lawmakers may consider only those issues designated by the Governor in his "call," or proclamation convening the special session (though other issues may be added by the Governor during a session).  The Legislative Reference Library provides a list of called sessions and their "topics."

Any bill passed by the Legislature takes effect 90 days after its passage unless two-thirds of each house votes to give the bill either immediate effect or earlier effect. The Legislature may provide for an effective date that is after the 90th day. Under current legislative practice, most bills are given an effective date of September 1 in odd-numbered years (September 1 is the start of the state's fiscal year).

A Note of Caution

When searching for citations to Texas session laws, you may encounter several different abbreviations used to indicate the same thing.

For example, the citations below are to the same session law:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., Ch. 875, Sec. 1, eff. June 15, 2007.
Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 875, Sec. 1, eff. June 15, 2007.

Some online sources use R.S. to indicate "Regular Session" when referring to legislative sessions.  Alternatively, if there is no session designation, this also indicates that it is a regular session. 

Sources cite called sessions differently as well.  You might see "81st Legislature, 2d C.S." and "81(2)" in various online sources; these would both indicate that the law was passed during the second called session of the 81st Legislature.

Additional Tools & Resources