This post is similar to the post on researching caselaw. Westlaw and Lexis Nexis both have very effective tools for researching Texas legislative materials. This post is focused on how to research legislative materials outside of Westlaw and Lexis Nexis. I expect most of this will come as little surprise to most of you, but it’s worth going over it in case there was something you missed.
As I expect you know, the Texas Legislature’s website has its statutes available online as well as the state constitution.
If you know the statute or constitutional provision you’re looking for (or roughly know where to find it), you can use the quick search drop down fields to find it. If you want to just browse the statutes or the constitution, that is available as well.
The website also has a search function. Click on the link “Search” at the top of the page.
For reasons that I cannot explain, the field to enter your search term is limited to a certain number of characters. So that will have an effect on how detailed you can make your search. For that, you can turn to Google. If you do an advanced search, you can limit the search to a specific website, such at the Texas Legislature’s website. If you use the link just provided, the website will already be listed. Otherwise, just paste or type in the website into the “site or domain” field. Then type in your search query and click on the “Advanced Search” button.
Texas Legislative History
The Texas Legislature’s website it my go-to place for researching legislative history. If you know specifically what you’re looking for, you can jump right in from the main page.
There are a number of ways to find the legislative history, depending on what you know about the bill. You can search by text, or bill. You can also specifically look up a bill. All of these links are found on the main page. When you find the bill you’re looking for, it will look something like this:
In my experience, the “Text” tab is the most useful for doing legislative history research.
This tab shows you each iteration of the bill as it went through the process. From here you can hopefully glean what was important by finding how it changes and how it stayed the same. The “Amendments” tab is similarly useful for this purpose.
As far as I have been able to tell, discussions of the bill on the floor of the House or Senate are not available online. (If you know otherwise, please let me know.) My understanding if for that you need to live in Austin or to travel there. (Personally, I recommend living there.)
Next column: How to research early statehood statutes. Did you know there was a way to do that online?
Staff attorney, First Court of Appeals
Comments, questions, and useful information are always welcome (and desperately sought). Please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.