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Checklist for Maryland Legislative History Research

This Guide was created by Library staff members in 2010 and updated in 2011. The Library has retained the original text, but has added or updated hypertext links as appropriate. This document serves as a companion piece to Michael S. Miller's Ghosthunting: Searching for Maryland Legislative History.

Checklist WorksheetPDF File

Step 1: Research Maryland courts' usage of legislative history

Case Law:

The Courts have discussed legislative history in the following recent cases: In re Jason W., 378 Md. 596 (2003); Conaway v. Deane, 401 Md. 219 (2007); Bd. of Educ. v. Beka Indus., 190 Md. App. 668 (2010); State v. Johnson, 415 Md. 413 (2010); and Gardner v. State, 420 Md. 1 (2011). Please note that there may be additional cases that address more specific scenarios.

Secondary Sources:

Law review articles and legal treatises may also provide guidance. Some key titles include: Jack Schwartz and Amanda Stakem Conn, "The Court of Appeals at the Cocktail Party: The Use and Misuse of Legislative History," 54 Md. L. Rev. 432 (2005); and Norman J. Singer and J.D. Shambie Singer, Statutes and Statutory Construction (formerly called Sutherland Statutory Construction): http://lawlib.state.md.us/record=b1076012.

Step 2: Find the session law by using the Maryland Annotated Code

Maryland Annotated Code, Current Year:

Print version: At the end of each statute, the publishers of the Code provide a history of the statute's amendments, displayed in parentheses in chronological order. The Code editors have provided any available Revisor's Notes, as well as occasional Editor's Notes that describe amendments. If the amendment you are seeking is listed in the history parenthetical, note the chapter number (and section, if given) and year and proceed to the next step. Note that the publisher does not provide amendment history prior to the revision of the Article in which your statute is located. To find earlier amendments, see below.

Online versions: LexisNexis online annotated code should contain material identical to the print version. The free version of the unannotated version from Lexis-Nexis) also provides amendment history and Revisor's Notes.

Maryland Annotated Code, Superseded volumes:

Print version: The Library's Conference Room houses a complete collection of superseded code volumes and annual pocket part updates. To find earlier amendments of a statute, locate the superseded volume near the date of the amendment. Find the appropriate statute number by using the volume's table of contents or the current Tables volume. Review the amendment history as noted above.

Online versions: LexisNexis offers an archive of annual editions, from 1991 to the present. The Maryland State Archives offers--for free--digitized copies of various historic code editions, up to and including the 1939 volumes.

Step 3: Read the session law

Laws of Maryland, Print Version:

The Library's Conference Room contains a complete set of the print volumes of the Laws of Maryland, which are arranged by chapter number for each session year. The chapter provides the purpose of the statutory change and any amendments to the act made during the enactment process. Importantly, the chapter provides in its header the Senate or House bill number.

Laws of Maryland, Online Versions:

The Maryland State Archives offers--for free--digitized copies of the Laws of Maryland, from colonial times to present. HeinOnline (available at Library and MD Judiciary Staff) has digitized copies of the Laws of Maryland, from 1777 to present. The General Assembly website has an index of chapters and bill numbers, starting in 1996. Since 2007, the General Assembly has offered PDF versions of chapters, as they appear in the Laws of Maryland. These are available from links on the corresponding bill page. Searching and browsing capabilities vary among these providers.

Step 4: Find the bill number

Note the bill number provided in the header of the chapter in the Laws of Maryland. It is important to note whether the bill number provided is for the House or the Senate. To locate bills numbers from 1996 to the present, it may be easier to use the General Assembly website's Legislation by Session.

Step 5. Analyze history using legislative sources

Bill Drafting Information:

General Assembly Website Documents: This resource has bill drafting information from legislative sessions beginning in 1996, including: Fiscal and Policy Notes, since 2002; Fiscal Notes, from 1996 to 2001; and amendments to bills. These resources are available from the web page for the particular bill. The site also offers audio recordings of Senate and House floor proceedings, since 2000.

Bill Files: These contain information collected by the General Assembly's Standing Committees about bills submitted to them for review. Bill files typically include "bill review letters" from the Attorney General's Office, amendments, witness testimony, recorded votes and occasional correspondence from stakeholders. Senate and House bill files are ONLY AVAILABLE IN MICROFILM from 1976 to 1998. A comprehensive list of bills files available at the Maryland State Law Library is available in the Library's catalog: http://lawlib.state.md.us/record=b1020373. (At present, the Library also has microfilm of 1999 House bills.) The Department of Legislative Services Library manages the microfilming and provides subscriptions to a number of libraries in addition to the State Law Library: the University of Maryland School of Law's Thurgood Marshall Law Library; the University of Baltimore Law School Library; the Maryland Attorney General's Library, the Baltimore County Circuit Court Law Library; and the Montgomery County Circuit Court Law Library. Bill files from 1999 to two years prior to the current year are ONLY available at the Department of Legislative Services Library. (Typically, bill files are retained by a Committee for one year, then turned over to the Legislative Services Library.) For additional information, contact:

Maryland Department of Legislative Services Library
State Circle
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
410-946-5400
800-492-7122

Audio tapes of Senate floor debates: Since 1992, debate of Senate floor proceedings have been audio taped. The Legislative Services Library provides access to these tapes for interested researchers. (Note that the General Assembly website offers audio recordings of Senate and House floor proceedings, since 2000.)

Legislative Policy Committee:

The various reports to this Committee include findings and recommendations made as a result of the work done between sessions by legislative committees. The Library's holding include the Reports of Committees to the General Assembly, from 1977 to 1981, http://lawlib.state.md.us/record=b1057707; and the successor Summary Reports, from 1983 to the present: http://lawlib.state.md.us/record=b1024331. They are shelved in the State Publications Collection at call number LE 3(A).2 :RAP and LE 3(a).2 :SRO, respectively.

Legislative Council:

Reports to the General Assembly: The Legislative Council, which existed from 1939 through 1975, studied various problems facing the State during legislative interims.  The Council's annual reports consist of summaries of legislative proposals. The Library's holdings include Reports from 1941 to 1975: http://lawlib.state.md.us/record=b1057708. They are shelved in the State Publications Collection at call number LE 3(A).2 :RAP

Research Reports: Between 1940 and 1958, the Research Division of the Legislative Council produced 32 studies on a range of topics. The Library has cataloged each report separately, but all are available in the State Publications Collection at call number LE 3a.2 :LCR.

The Commission to Revise the Annotated Code:

The Commission issued several reports in the 1970's detailing the revisions of Articles from the 1957 Edition of the Maryland Code. The Library has cataloged each report separately, but all are available in the State Publications Collection at call number LE 5.2 :CR. Additionally, the first publication of each new Article includes comprehensive Revisor's Notes, which explain changes made during the revision. The Library also has the Maryland Style Manual for Statutory Law (http://lawlib.state.md.us/record=b1111936), shelved at LE 5.2 :SMO. The Department of Legislative Services' website has additional information on the revision process.

Maryland House and Senate Journals:

There is relatively little legislative history here. However, the last volume of the year contains a subject index of all bills introduced that session. This is the only source, prior to 1996, that provides easy access to bills that failed, which at times illuminate legislative history of similar bills enacted during a later session. (Of course, since 1996, the General Assembly website gives comprehensive coverage of bill passage.)

Step 6. Analyze history using other state government sources

Reports from Legislative and Executive Task Forces and Study Commissions:

The reports of these formal entities, charged by the Governor or the General Assembly with finding legislative solutions to social or economic problems, can be a rich source of legislative history. The State Law Library is in the process of digitizing many of these reports and maintains a comprehensive print collection, shelved in the State Publications Collection at call number Y 3.

Governor's Messages and Vetoes:

The Governor's messages often provide insight into the administration's proposed legislation.  The traditional State-of-the-State message of the Governor appears in the House and Senate Journals, which the Library houses in its storage collection. The Governor's budget message usually is submitted as a separate publication with the annual state budget books. Executive veto messages generally appear in the Maryland House and Senate Journals (usually at the beginning of the session) and in the Laws of Maryland.

Annual Reports and Publications of Executive Agencies and the Judicial Branch:

The annual reports and other publications of executive branch agencies and the Judiciary might provide some historical leads. The State Law Library has a comprehensive collection of these publications, and many also are available from other state depository libraries.

Step 7. Analyze history using sources outside of state government

Reports of Professional and Trade Associations and Stakeholders

Although most of this material will be topically oriented, legal researchers might pay special attention to the legislative reports contained in the Reports of the Annual Meetings of the Maryland State Bar Association, 1896-1991. This resource is shelved in the Maryland Law Collection at call number KFM1281 .M382.

Legislative Study Group Publications

The Legislative Study Group, an organization including both legislators and community leaders, issued studies and periodic newsletters between 1977 and 1984. The Library has cataloged each publication separately, but all are available in the State Publications Collection at call number LE 9.2 :IR..

Documentation from National Legislative Organizations

The General Assembly may have looked to other states in the crafting of specific language, especially for uniform and model laws. For example, it may have followed the uniform law proposals of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The Conference's Annual Proceedings are shelved in the Library's Legal Texts Collection at call number KF165 .A2. The University of Pennsylvania Law School's Biddle Law Library offers an online archive of the Conference's recent drafts of uniform laws. Maryland also could have adopted model codes of the American Law Institute; the Library's catalog has individual records for each model code. The Council of State Governments also offers Suggested State Legislation, available in the Library's Legal Texts Collection at call number KF165 .C68.

Newspaper, Magazine and Journal Articles

Contemporary news articles may have featured legislative developments. The Library offers full-text online databases of the Baltimore Sun (1837 - 1985; 1990 - present) and the Annapolis Capitol (1887 - 2005). The Library also offers the Maryland Daily Record on microfilm. This source might provide additional details about legislation. If a researcher finds coverage of legislation on a particular date in one of the databases, he or she can more easily search a similar date range in the Daily Record.

 



Updated: November 26, 2013




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