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Texas Legislative History Research

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

Consulting Other Documents

To finish compiling your legislative history, it may be helpful to consult some of these additional documents:

Companion Bills

A companion bill is a bill that is filed in one chamber that is identical or very similar to a bill filed in the other chamber of the legislature.  Researching the legislative history of a companion bill may provide information or insight into the history of the bill on which you are compiling a legislative history.

To find companion bills, look at the Bill History file, which you consulted in Step 3.  For bills from the 71th Legislature (1989) to the present, you can find any companion bills on the Bill Lookup section of the Texas Legislature Online website by clicking on "Companion" or "Companions" in the top menu bar.

Using the bill in our search example from this guide (HB 3249 from the 80th Legislature), you can see that an identical companion bill, SB 915, was introduced in the Senate.

Sample image depicting companion bills online

House and Senate Journals

The House and Senate Journals record the official proceedings of the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate. In general, the House and Senate Journals do not contain printed debates on bills. Audio tapes will be best resource for finding the actual legislative discussion. However, the House and Senate Journals may contain items of interest to researchers, such as statements of legislative intent.

To use these Journals, look up your bill number in the bill history index, which is located in the last volume of the journals for a particular session. Here you will find all of the actions taken on your bill and page numbers on which they are located. If the bill was considered in both chambers of the Legislature, you will need to review the bill history in both the House and Senate Journals.

The most comprehensive online resource for House and Senate Journals is from the Texas Legislative Reference Library, with complete coverage from the 1st Legislature (1846) to the 29th (1905) and then from the 49th Legislature (1945) to the present, with additional selected coverage in between. It is a work in progress, so coverage is always increasing.

The Texas House and Senate also make their Journals available online. House Journals are also available online beginning with the 74th Legislature (1995), and Senate Journals are available online beginning with the 76th Legislature (1999). Most House (1848-present) and Senate (1848-present) Journals are available here at the Tarlton Law Library; some may be housed in the Rare Books collection, so you will want to check their location if the journals are older than 1965. Rare Books require an appointment for use.

Examples of House and Senate Journal entries can be found in the examples used in the Bill History section of this guide.

House and Senate Committee Minutes

Minutes summarize committee proceedings and record the time and place of each meeting, members present, bills considered, witness lists, and votes taken. Minutes typically do not contain transcriptions of discussions or testimony.

75th Legislature (1997) to date: available from Texas Legislature Online Committees

63rd-74th Legislatures (1973-1995):

  • House: Scanned House and Joint committee minutes are available from the Legislative Reference Library of Texas.
  • Senate: Senate minutes are currently being scanned and will be added as completed.

 

Bill Analyses from the House Research Organization

The House Research Organization (HRO) is a nonpartisan source of impartial information on legislation and issues considered by the Texas Legislature. The HRO is an independent administrative department of the Texas House of Representatives.  Bill analyses prepared by the HRO reflect the version of the bill as it was reported by House committee and first considered by the House of Representatives. It does not reflect any changes made to the bill after the second reading or amendments made on the House floor or in the Senate. 

Bill analyses from the 74th Regular Session forward are available on the House Research Organization's website. You can receive updates via email, facebook, Twitter, and RSS.

Legislative Interim Reports

Standing or special legislative committees often issue reports of studies in the "interim" (the time period between legislative sessions).  These reports can be useful resources and provide discussion and background of an issue prior to a bill's passage, or discussion and monitoring of a bill's implementation after it is passed.

Interim reports can be found using the Legislative Reference Library's online catalog.  They are listed by subject, title, chair, and call number. 

The Legislative Reference Library has also scanned in the full text of many versions of interim reports, going all the way back to the 1st Legislative session (1846).  These online reports are available on the library's Legislative Reports page, and are searchable by session, subject, and keyword.

Newspaper Clippings

This is a service of the Legislative Reference Library which may be another useful source of background information and historical perspective on a bill.  The LRL's newspaper clipping service includes articles from more than thirty state and national newspapers, dating back to the 1920s.  These clips may be searched on computer terminals located in the Legislative Reference Library.

In addition, you may search these clips by bill number for bills passed in the 74th Legislature (1995) to the present.

Publications by State Agencies and Commissions

At times, the legislature may command a state agency or state commission to research and report on a particular issue.  These directed studies often result in legislation, and reading the studies may help researchers determine legislative intent. 

These reports can be found using the Legislative Reference Library's online catalog, and are listed by the agency or commission name, report or study title, and subject.  Some of the reports are also listed by the legislative session and the bill number.