State legislative documents are similar to federal legislative documents, but their availability varies widely from one state to the next. These documents include the following:
Research Tip: The key to successfully locating a state's legislative history documents is to understand the state's legislative process (which can vary significantly from state to state) and to know what documents are generated during that process. This information can be found in a state-specific legislative history research guide. Legislative history guides for all 50 states are indexed at State Legislative History Research Guides.
Indiana Legislative Process
When researching state legislative history, start with the session law. Session laws are all the laws from a given legislative session published in the order in which they were passed. Session Laws also include special and private acts that never become part of the codified laws.
The session law will include a citation to its originating bill. You can then use the bill citation to research legislative journals and to locate sponsor information and any available legislative documents.
Session Laws are available from the following sources:
Content and Format
"While the content and format of the journals vary from state to state, most of them report daily action of both houses, including comments and sometimes debate from the floor, bills and resolutions, roll call votes, and usually full texts of amendments. Some states include addresses of the governor, reports of committees, opinions of legislative counsel, subject and bill indexes, as well as a variety of miscellaneous state documents. While some of this information can be found in other disparate sources, some is unique to the legislative journals, particularly roll call votes and introduced bills. These state materials have been elusive to researchers, and scholarship in state legal history has suffered. Many scholars of state legislative history are not aware that these volumes exist and, for those who know about them, access has been a continuing problem." (Scott Matheson & Bonnie Collier. "State Legislative Journals: The Reconstruction and New Deal Eras, Feasibility for a Digital Project")
Research Tip: If you don't have a bill number, you can search by subject in the legislative journal's index. In addition to this Index by Subject Matter, indexes for legislative journals can offer the following research tools:
It is also possible for legislative journals to contain statements of intent from policy committees making recommendations to the legislature.
State Legislative Journals are available from the following sources:
Bills are the most reliable of the legislative publications. The versions of the bill as it proceeds and goes through textual changes throughout the legislative process might often be the only way to determine the legislators’ intent.
State bills and resolutions are available from the following sources:
After its first reading, a bill can be assigned to a committee for review, where it might be scheduled for public hearings. The merits of the bill are discussed during the hearing and interested persons speak in favor of or in opposition to the bill. The sponsor of the bill (and other members of the committee) will make statements as well. Committees will vote on the bill after hearings are held. Additional committee work involves the consideration of amendments, reporting the bill back to the legislative body, and the forming of conference committees to reconcile differences.
The availability of committee records (reports, debate, votes, hearing transcripts and testimony) varies by state. Online availability is sporadic and many state legislative committee records are not widely disseminated in print or even exist in a full-text official form.
For example, there is a distinct lack of legislative history documents available from the Indiana General Assembly:
Digitized collections of state legislative documents become available as libraries and state agencies scan committee files, work sessions, and historical records. The following are some examples:
Audio and Video Records
Various state legislatures offer web streaming of their sessions, as well as recorded floor sessions (debate), committee hearings, and work sessions. For example:
When a state's legislature is not in session, interim legislative committees and commissions meet to conduct in-depth research and analysis on complex issues facing the state that are likely to come up before the legislature the following year. Interim committees hear expert testimony and open their meetings to the public, seeking comments in person or in writing. These committees work to form recommendations which become proposals considered during the next legislative session.
In Indiana, interim study committees meet when the General Assembly is not in session during the fall and the summer, and usually complete their work by November 1st.
Some state legislatures publish their interim committee membership and files online. Files can include notices, agendas, minutes, reports, and preliminary drafts of legislation. For example:
Party or Caucus websites are another source for Interim Committee records. For example: