Searching Legislative History

One of the most common requests we get at the State of Arizona Research Library is how to research the legislative history of a particular law. How did it come into existence? Who originally came up with the idea for the law? How long did it take to pass? When did it pass? And has it changed since that time?

Our amazing law librarian has come up with this helpful “cheat sheet” of information on how to perform a legislative history. Use it, print it, share it all you like. If you still find yourself stuck or can’t find it online, contact us! We have a lot more material in our physical collection that may be helpful as well.

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How To Start

Find the statute in the print Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) annotated or an annotated online source. Look for “added by” for the 1st time it was enacted. If it says “amended by,” there’s an earlier enactment. Look for it in the superseded A.R.S.

Determine the Year

Is it Before 1997? 

  1. Find the Session Laws. Session Laws are the enacted version of the legislation. Jot down the bill number, found after the chapter number.
  2. Check the bill file. The State of Arizona Research Library has these bill files on microfilm:
  • Senate bills between 1969 and 1990.
  • House bills between 1971 and 1994.
  • After those dates but before 1997, call the Clerk of the House of Representatives at 602-926-3032 or the Senate Resource Center at 602-926-3559.

Before the late 1960’s, the bill file probably doesn’t exist, as most were destroyed in a flood. Your issue may be in the History of the Arizona State Legislature 1912-1967 which included an analysis of major issues, debate, & news coverage by session. It is now on microfiche in the Reading Room but soon it will be digitized! Thank you, Library Services and Technology Act!

  1. Use the bill number to check Journals from the Arizona House and Senate. Start by finding the bill number in the index at the end of the volume. Then check each cited page for legislative process and committees that heard the bill. Journals may have text of amendments, floor speeches, & conference committee info. There will be different information in the Journal of each chamber, so be sure to check both!

 

Is it 1989 – 1997?

  1. Go to the Arizona Legislature website. Enter the bill number into the search box at top right. You won’t find everything you need, but it’s a convenient source to get started.
  2. Next, refer to before-1997 steps above.

 

Is it 1997 or more current?

  1. Find the Session Law from the Arizona Legislature website. Set the Year and Session using the yellow drop-down menu at the top. Scroll down to Chapter number. Jot down the bill number.
  2. Use the bill tracker from the Arizona Legislature website. Set the correct Year and Session. Enter the 4-digit bill number in search box at the top right. The titles in the blue bar close to the top are links to more information.
  3. For committee minutes, jot down committees & dates. Go to Agendas on the left-hand side of the page. Choose Senate or House & select the Committee. Click on the meeting date. Click the blue Committee Minutes link.
  4. To search topics, try “search” on the left-hand side and use keywords.
  5. Check for interim, special, or study committee reports. Look for some more Legislative Study Committee Reports in our State Documents Collection on the Arizona Memory Project (link does not reflect a complete search of Legislative Committees).

 

Still can’t find what you’re looking for?

microfilm2Journals may have info on interim, special, & study committees. Check current year and a year or two before. Search our State Documents Collection for Committee reports.

The State of Arizona Archives has some minutes filed by House committees between 1965 and 2016. Jot down the name of committees & meeting dates, then call them at 602-926-3720 or fill out a research request form.

We have numerous newspapers on microfilm, including the Capitol Times & its predecessors. Important and controversial issues of the day often appeared in the news.

To view print material, you can visit us in the Reading Room of the Polly Rosenbaum History and Archives Building located at 1901 W. Madison in Phoenix. We are open Monday through Friday, except on state holidays.

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We’re Having an FDLP Anniversary!

On December 19th, 1963, Senators Carl Hayden and Barry Goldwater designated the State of Arizona Research Library as a regional Federal Depository Library for the state of Arizona.

A Federal Depository Library is a library that has agreed to make U.S. government information available to the public. There are more than 1100 of these libraries that make up a national network, and 11 of them are in Arizona. This map will show you the location of all of the Federal Depositories in the United States, including the ones right here in Arizona.

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What kinds of things count as “government information”?

We collect federal agency publications from more than 100 agencies across all three branches of government. You can find everything from Supreme Court opinions to Congressional hearings to topographic maps of the White Mountains here at the library. Whenever the Census Bureau releases new data, or NASA publishes a new study of Mars, these materials join nearly 200 years of history in our Federal Documents Collection.

Our collection is made up of many formats. Most of our items are in print, which includes books, newsletters, pamphlets, and Braille books. We also have maps, microfiche and microfilm, CDs and DVDs, kits, posters, calendars, and even puzzles!

Libraries in the United States have been collecting government information and making it available to Americans for almost as long as the country has existed. In 1813, Congress began distributing official publications to libraries, and in 1895 formally established the Federal Depository Library Program or FDLP. Thus libraries all over the nation were called to action to ensure the people could learn about their government.

The Territorial Library of Arizona was established in 1864 in Prescott, the Territorial Capitol at the time. The earliest library catalog we have is from 1865. This excerpt from the handwritten list of books in the library shows that we were collecting federal publications at least that early – the Territorial Library included the full Eighth U.S. Census, Smithsonian Institution publications, and reports of the Department of Agriculture, Indian Bureau, and Land Office:

S.T.A.R.L. Library catalog from 1865

In 1962, a major change was made to the Federal Depository Library Program. With the Depository Library Act of 1962, up to two libraries in each state could be designated as Regional Depository Libraries. These libraries would be responsible for maintaining complete collections of government publications, and providing services to the other depository libraries in their state, with the goal of ensuring that everyone in their state was able to access government information easily. In 1963, both the Arizona Department of Library and Archives (later to become the State of Arizona Research Library) and the University of Arizona were jointly designated as regional depository libraries by our two Senators at the time, Carl Hayden and Barry Goldwater.

Hayden-Goldwater designation of the Arizona Department of Library and Archives and U of A library as Regional Depository Libraries- 1963

 

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Publications we received in 1963 include “Effects of drought in the Colorado River Basin,” “Damage to livestock from radioactive fallout in event of nuclear war,” and hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities.

The University of Arizona library is no longer a regional depository library, but it is still in the FDLP, along with 10 other libraries in Arizona. As the sole remaining Regional, the State of Arizona Research Library serves as a statewide hub for U.S. government information and provides services to the other depository libraries and to the public.

 

Want more information?

Check out this short history of the FDLP: Fulfilling Madison’s Vision – the Federal Depository Library Program.

Coming soon: a timeline of the history of the State of Arizona Research Library as a Federal Depository Library!

Arizona Legislature Lingo and Abbreviations

3rd Read? Do pass? COW?

What’s really going on at the Legislature?

25th Territorial Legislature Council

The Arizona Legislature has its own lingo and abbreviations. Here is a flow chart we find helpful to track legislation and understand what’s going on during the legislative session and with the introduced bills.

Remember, we have a treasure trove of materials on legislation – including Session Laws from before Statehood, Journals of legislative action for both the House and Senate, introduced bills, and many years of bill files. Contact us for research help!

Arizona State Legislature in session

Legislative process and abbreviations

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Box 9

Makes sense, right!? This flow chart is a little more advanced than the Schoolhouse Rock “I’m Just a Bill” clip we learned legislative process from as kids!

Here are a few more pictures of our State legislators and staff in action through the years, completing the process outlined above!

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Secretaries or attaches for the Arizona State Legislature
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Arizona State Legislature in session
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Members of the 1912, First State Legislature
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Legislature in session in the Arizona State Capitol

 

Researching the Old Legal Stuff

YaleWe recently purchased The Yale Law School Guide to Research in American Legal History, a new resource to help you find historical legal information that is very specialized or pre-dates the information that is readily available online. Some of the resources are digitized, and some only in print. It is available to use in the Reading Room at the Polly Rosenbaum Archives and History Building.

For example, if you are looking for the laws on witchcraft, this source tells you step-by-step how to find them. Witchcraft was originally designated as a felony in the United Kingdom and carried the death penalty. Later revisions passed by Queen Elizabeth I reduced the severity of the penalty if nobody got hurt. This change enabled herbalists to practice their craft. Maybe this was the origin of the No Harm, No Foul standard.

Yale TOC

Later chapters address later eras. Apparently practice manuals were widely used in the Colonial era by justices, officials, and educated citizens. Some states had constitutions that predated the adoption of the Federal Constitution, and this reference has information on both, as well information on how to access statutes and cases from the early days of the Republic. Later chapters explain how the Reporter system for publishing case law was a pioneering innovation, how to do archival research, searching administrative law, and the advent of legal forms.

 

DictionariesAnother chapter discusses how international law and treaties affect U.S. law. Another introduces the use of dictionaries and biographical sources. The book concludes with tips for researching newspapers, statistical resources, and public records.

If you don’t know where to find the historical legal topic you are researching, we may just look here first!

Arizona’s Ever-Changing Constitution

What’s with all these propositions?

Arizona’s Constitution can be amended in 3 ways. The Legislature may vote to put a proposal on the ballot (Referendum). Second, the voters may submit a petition with the required number of signatures (Initiative).  Regardless of the means of getting on the ballot, if a majority votes for the proposition, it becomes law and the Constitution is changed. The 3rd method is for the Legislature to propose a Constitutional Convention. In that case, the voters must approve the Convention and any revisions that the Convention recommends. These routes to change our Constitution make for some vibrant, interactive, and often rowdy election cycles!

At the State of Arizona Research Library we have lots of materials about the Arizona Constitution. You can browse the Minutes or the Records of the Constitutional Convention of 1910.

 

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You can compare the Arizona Constitution with the U.S. Constitution with these publications from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

You can see how the Arizona Constitution has changed over the years at our Constitution Timeline here.

You can study the work of experts who have analyzed the Constitution by viewing these titles (and more) in our Reading Room or borrowing them through your public library via interlibrary loan. The Toni McClory book is also available for free as an ebook through Reading Arizona!

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And you can vote! There are 3 proposed Constitutional amendments on the ballot for the 2018 midterm election on November 6, 2018.  Here’s the publicity pamphlet for this year’s General Election.

Arizona’s Territorial Legislature

Arizona’s Legislature met to debate the issues of the day and pass laws, long before Arizona became a state. The Legislature met in Prescott between 1864 and 1867, and again between 1879 and 1889. In between they met in Tucson, before settling in to Phoenix in 1891 to stay.

We have copies of the enacted laws (“Session Laws”) passed by the Territorial Legislature dating from 1864 until Arizona became a state on February 14, 1912. We were the “Valentine to the Nation”. We also have copies of the Session Laws passed since Statehood, which you can research in print in our Reading Room or browse online on the Arizona Memory Project here.

Session LawsWe think it’s vital to preserve these irreplaceable materials. We keep a print copy that is accessible to users. We also make digital copies of everything we can, and post them online so people can access them from anywhere there is an internet connection. We set aside a good-quality preservation copy of each document. Then we select multiple duplicates whenever possible to use as replacements for the accessible copies. We keep the preservation copies and the duplicate replacement copies in separate climate-controlled spaces to assure that the information in them will not be lost.

These may not be things to curl up on a comfy couch and read. But preserving them is just one of the many things we do here at the State of Arizona Research Library.

If you wish to come see the Session Laws or any other historic or current law material in person, stop by the Polly Rosenbaum Archives and History Building at 1901 W. Madison Street, Phoenix any Monday through Friday (except state holidays).