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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

A “legislative history” is a collection of documents that constitutes the pre-enactment record of legislative action on a bill. For Texas legislation, collections of documents related to the passage of a law (compiled legislative histories), are not available; a researcher will have to compile the materials themselves. N.B. bills in Texas (except general appropriations bills) are limited to a single subject.

It is usually best practice 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. Please note that these databases may not contain complete references or resources. 

Video Tutorial: Texas Legislative History Research Online

The following video tutorial provides a brief introduction to Texas legislative history research on Texas Legislature Online and in the Legislative Reference Library's Legislative Archive System. 

Screen share content from Westlaw used with permission.

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.

Steps for Compiling Legislative History

There are five steps involved in compiling a legislative history of Texas legislation:

  1. Determine the bill and session numbers (or years) of the legislation that enacted the statutory language
  2. Find the bill history
  3. Examine the bill file
  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.

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 numbers (or years), begin with Step 2.

When the Texas Legislature Meets and Effective Dates of Laws Passed

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 the adjournment of the session in which the bill was enacted 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

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.