Compiling the Legislative History of a New York State Law

Outline:

The Basic Steps explain how to locate the Governor's bill jacket and sponsors' memoranda. Although a legislative history starts with a bill jacket, there are qualifications. "While sometimes limited or even useless, bill jackets are nevertheless important, since they often contain the only available material on legislative intent. They are especially important when only one or two sections of a particular law are amended or added, and conversely, become less helpful in regard to extensive revisions" (Carter, Legislative Intent in New York State, p.9). Begin your search by determining the session law citation, that is, the year and chapter number of the law. McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York contains the session law citation. McKinney's provides annotations to each article of the law, for example, "Historical Note" and "Library References", which are useful for compiling a legislative history and in understanding the law and its applications.

The Intermediate Steps explain how to collect a wide range of material needed for a comprehensive legislative history of the law. The Session Laws record changes in wording of the original law by later amendments. McKinney's Session Laws includes the texts of executive, legislative and judicial memoranda. The Legislative Digest lists committee actions. Any New York State documents relating to your law should be identified.

The Advanced Steps explain approaches for finding scholarly studies of a law. Such studies involve searching legal periodicals and newspapers, collecting material from bar associations, obtaining Legislative hearings and debates, and finding relevant records and briefs.

Finding Aid:

Carter, Robert Allan. Legislative Intent in New York State; Cases, and Annotated Bibliography, 2nd ed. (Albany: The University of the State of New York, 2001). 34pp. D, LIB 460-4 LEGIN, 81-71478 2001.  Also available online through the Library's online catalog.

Steps:

Basic:

Step 1. Determine the Session Law Citation of the law, i.e., its year and chapter number.
Step 2. Review "Historical Note", "Library References" and other commentaries and annotations in McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York.
Step 3. Obtain a copy of the governor's Bill Jacket.
Step 4. Find Memoranda using The Legislative Annual and McKinney's Session Laws of New York.
Step 5. Obtain a copy of the sponsor's memorandum.

Intermediate:

Step 6. Note changes in wording of the original law in the Session Laws.
Step 7. Identify appropriate Legislative committees by determining bill numbers from The Legislative Digest; obtain their reports.
Step 8. Collect documents on this law, published by the executive departments (Governor, State agencies), the Legislature, and the Judiciary.

Advanced:

Step 9. Obtain published transcripts of Legislative hearings and debates.
Step 10. Search indexes to legal periodicals and newspapers; search NYSL catalog for books.
Step 11. Collect material from bar associations.
Step 12. Check reports, records, and briefs of court cases dealing with this law.

Last Updated: January 16, 2013