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Compiling a legislative history : Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library

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Identify session laws
Identify bills & amend'ts
Find sponsors' statements
Research committee
Research floor debate
Look for a study

Additional research 

hen compiling a legislative history first identify relevant, individual pieces of legislation or bills and then search for the materials that document the passage of each bill through the legislative process.  The Legislative Document (L.D.) number is generally the clearest way to identify a bill and will help you find the associated records that constitute the legislative history.  If a bill is enacted, it becomes a session law and is given a chapter number.  There are several types of session laws but the Public Law is the most common.  Since the numbering of  L.D.s and session law chapters starts over again with each new Legislature, it is important to know the year as well as the number. For more background on how a bill becomes law, see the Maine's Path of Legislation page. This page describes a method for compiling the legislative history of Maine laws and links you to forms we use when researching a bill or the history line of a section.  The exact method and tools you use will depend on the legislation you are researching, the years when the legislation was considered, and the information with which you are starting.  Reference staff at the library are happy to assist you if you have questions or do not have access to the records that constitute the history.  You may borrow a compiled history from our collection, use worksheets we have completed in the past, or contact us for assistance.

Identify session laws to be researched  
If you are researching a statute section, look first at the history line immediately following the text of the section, in the Maine Revised Statutes Annotated, and list all the Public Law chapter numbers.  

If the section has been renumbered you will find a derivation list in West’s Maine Revised Statutes Annotated following the historical notes.  The public law chapters listed in the derivation are also part of the legislative history of a statutory section.   When the history line includes a citation to a prior codification, for example R.S. ch. 3 section 25 with no year, you need to consult the previous codification.  You may trace a section from one codification to the next previous codification until you reach 1821. If you see a year and chapter number, but no R.S. cite, that is a cite for a public law. The earliest public law listed is the original enactor for the section.  History on the legislative web pages contains no derivations.  There are no citations to chapters prior to 1964 or to the 1954 codification, and there is no indication of prior placement under other numbering in the code.  Make a list of all the session laws you have found.  If you are interested in only specific words or paragraphs, narrow your list to the laws that affect those words or paragraphs.  Use the historical notes and the texts of the session laws.  If you are researching enacted laws on a subject, find the year and chapter number of the session laws you want to research.  Subject access to enacted laws is provided in the Laws of Maine which has cumulative and annual indexes or the Enacted Law Digest (since 1999).   For additional ways to search legislation by subject see the sections below on identifying bill numbers.It is helpful to look at each session law to confirm that you have the correct law, to see the scope of the law, and to read the title of the law. 

Identify bills and amendments
Bills are most often identified by the Legislative Document (L.D.) number.  Amendments are most easily identified by the filing number (ex. H-32 or S-101), but are also referred to by  terms such as Committee Amendment "A" or Senate Amendment "F".  The L.D. is the unit for which you will find Statements of Fact, amendments, the committee file, debate and occasionally a study report.  The year of the legislation and the L.D. number are the key to retrieving these pieces.  How you find the L.D. and amendment numbers depends on what you know and the year of the bill.  Here are some ways to find them.

        LD and amendment numbers

  • First check the online LawMaker (2001- )or Bill Tracker (1985- ) systems.
  • Use the Chapter/LD Cross-Reference Tables for years 1965 to 1986. 
  • Consult the History and Final Disposition pamphlets from 1942 forward.  Some Special Sessions are not included.  The History and Final Disposition is online from 1997 onwards. Access varies by year, but you can always find bills by at least one subject and sometimes by chapter number, L.D. or paper number, and committee. 
  • Use the subject index to the Legislative Record - the only way for 1907 to 1941.

LD numbers only

  • The Laws of Maine from 1979 forward print the LD number on each session law, but no information about amendments is given and only enacted laws are included.  The Laws of Maine are online for 1997 forward.

Find sponsors’ statements of fact
Starting in 1971 you will find a statement at the end of each L.D. that has been approved by the sponsor and briefly describes the bill.  Since 1979 all amendments have a statement.  It is labeled either Statement of Fact or Summary.  The courts have accepted this statement as evidence of the intent of the legislation and it is often the clearest statement of the purpose.  You should also check for statements on legislation prior to 1971, but they are rare.

There are collections of Maine Legislative Documents at a number of libraries in Maine, including our collection which starts in 1835.  The Legislature has a directory of bills with links to the text for recent Legislatures.

Research committee hearings
The Library stores committee files offsite and  generally retrieves files once a day.  It is advisable to request files in advance. Committee files are available for most bills from 1983 forward although early years have less material.  The Appropriations Committee began transferring files for budget bills in 1991 and for other bills in 1997.  Since 1993 files have also been sent to the Maine State Archives.  The committee master files contain written hearing testimony, fiscal notes, and committee votes.  They may also contain analysis by the committee analyst; statements from state agencies, lobbyists and citizens; drafts of amendments; and other materials considered at work sessions. 

Public hearings and committee deliberations are not taped or transcribed.  Although you may see reference to a committee report, this term refers to the committee’s recommended action and not an actual report.The Law Library has digitized all committee files back to, and including, the 121st Legislative Session (2003) and partial sessions back to the 111th. Retrospective digitization efforts are ongoing. These files can be emailed as PDFs.  

Research floor debate and proceedings
Legislative debate and roll call votes are published in the Legislative Record starting in 1897.  The House Record and Senate Record for recent sessions are on the web.  A historical collection dating back to 1897 is available online as well. Sometimes you will find no debate and frequently there are no roll call votes on a specific L.D.

For most years you will find debate using indexes in the bound volumes.  The indexes provide access by subject or by key words from the title of the bill.   Remember that the subject and title of the bill may be much broader than the subject matter of the section you are researching.  More recently you can find pages by the L.D. number.  For a few years (1987-88 at least) if your bill had any new drafts, you must check under the number for every draft  Until 1999 the bound volumes contain a separate index for each session of the Legislature.  Starting in the 1993-94 biennium there is one index for all the sessions of each Legislature.  Starting in 1997 the House and Senate Records are published separately each with its own index.  The Record is first distributed as looseleaf pages and publication of the bound Record may be delayed by several years.When there is no index, you need to find the dates on which the L.D. was considered, or docket dates.  The Library will help you identify dates and may have a worksheet noting the pages containing debate.  The docket dates are available on the bill status system available in the Library 1986 forward and on the Internet Bill Status system  for recent sessions.  Then scan the print or online House Record and Senate Record for each date, looking for the L.D. number you are researching or use the find command in your browser.

Look for a study
The L.D. or the debate may indicate that the legislation is the result of a study, although only a few studies are conducted each year.   In that case you will want to look for a study.  Sometimes the proposed legislation is the only result of a study.

A study may be required by legislation, approved by the Legislative Council, or conducted by a government agency or task force.  Starting in 1996 legislative study reports have been available on the web either at or 
Postings are not complete in the earlier years.  Since 1941 the Library has collected all legislative study reports.  Search the
URSUS online catalog or talk with Library staff to locate copies of study reports.  Sometimes searching the number of the Legislature, ex. 118th, and a key word from the subject or committee name will bring up a list that can be easily scanned. Following a major revision a commission may write commentary that is printed as notes in West's Maine Revised Statutes Annotated following the pertinent section. A few study commissions have donated working papers which are available for study in the Library.  Revision Commissions may also produce commentary that is printed as notes in West’s Maine Revised Statutes Annotated following the pertinent section.  Contact the Library if you wish to research papers related to the enactment of:

Criminal Code Revision (Title 17-A, P.L. 1975, ch. 499)
Insurance Code (Title 24-A, P.L. 1969, ch.132)
Juvenile Code (Title 15, Part 6, P.L. 1977, ch. 520)
Probate Code (Title 18-A, P.L. 1979, ch. 540)
Workers Compensation Reform (Title 39-A, P.L. 1991, ch. 885)


Additional research possibilities
News clippings, emergency preambles, fiscal notes, bill summaries and enacted law summaries, Archives, Uniform Laws Annotated commentary

The Library's newspaper clippings collection includes newspaper articles relating to legislation that can be accessed using the L.D. number or by broad topics.  Prior to 1988 clippings are noted on the Library reference copies of legislative documents.  For later clippings there is a card index in the clippings area.  News articles provide background on an issue, are an indicator of public perception, and may refer to related legislation. Additional clues about the purpose of legislation may be found in the Emergency Preamble or Fiscal Note.  Emergency preambles are printed at the beginning of legislation proposed as an emergency measure and appear on enacted laws, L.D.’s and amendments.  The Fiscal Note is usually printed at the end of a bill just before the Summary and does not appear on the enacted law.  The Fiscal Note usually appears in a  Committee Amendment rather than on the original bill and is also in the committee master file.  This is the current practice, but procedures have varied over time.  Fiscal information is rare prior to 1989. Committee analysts prepare their own summaries of bills and enacted laws during each regular session.  The Library has summaries beginning in 1983. Online you will find recent summaries from the Office of Fiscal and Program Review for the Taxation and Appropriations Committees and from the Office of Policy and Legal Analysis for other committees.  They are published in the Joint Standing Committee Bill Summaries and the Enacted Law Digest.

Maine’s law may be based on an existing law from another state, a uniform law, or a model law.  You may want to consult Uniform Laws Annotated or other publications of model laws.

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