"Nota Bene" means "note this well" or "take particular notice." We at the O'Quinn Law Library will be posting tips on legal research techniques and resources, developments in the world of legal information, happenings at the Law Library, and legal news reports that deserve your particular attention. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and findings and to hearing from you.

N.B: Make a note to visit "Nota Bene" regularly.

-Spencer L. Simons, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Finding Texas Laws by Date

Many times patrons at the Law Library request assistance in finding what statute (or version of a statute) was in effect on a specific date. At times, these inquiries can become quite complex, requiring the researcher to follow a trail of session laws to find the law as at existed at that date. Thanks to some new resources from the Texas Legislative Council, Texas State Law Library, researching the history of a Texas Statute has never been easier.

The Texas Legislative Council, who makes available to citizens the Texas Constitutions and Statutes online, has added a tool for finding what version of a law was in effect on a specific date. The Statutes by Date feature allows users to (1) enter a date from the present back to 2004 and then (2)choose the code, chapter (or article), and section number. The text of the statute as it read at the date selected will be displayed, along with the legislative history annotation as it read on that date. Though this method only reaches back to 2004, it is extremely useful.

If you need to look back further than 2004, you will need to read the legislative history credits notated below the statute text. This information appears both in print volumes and statutes accessed through commercial legal research systems like Westlaw and LexisAdvance. After determining what version of the law controlled on the date you are searching, you may find it useful to look at the Texas State Law Library’s Historical Texas Statutes. The state law library has digitized versions of codified Texas law spanning the years 1879-1960. The website helpfully notes which legislative sessions are covered in a specific printing of the statutes or the supplements, and the text is searchable through PDF.

For the interim period of 1960-2004, there is not an official, reliable source currently available online. In these cases, you can use the legislative history credits following the statute text to find the year and chapter number for the session law that marked the latest change in the law before the date you are researching. Then, using the Texas Legislative Reference Library’s Legislative Archive System enter the session number (beware of called vs. regular sessions in the same year) and chapter number. The results will provide a link to a PDF image of the official Texas session laws, The General and Special Laws of Texas. The session law will tell you what was amended, added, or deleted in that action.

While accessing legislative history and older code volumes has become much easier, it can still be a very complex process. Reference librarians are available to help guide you through the process and save you time and frustration.  

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