Finding Texas Laws
Once a law is signed by the Governor, it is printed as an individual "slip law" and assigned a chronological chapter number. These chapters are reprinted in the General and Special Laws of Texas, also call the "Session Laws," which is published at the end of the legislative session. Each session law includes the official chapter number (used for citing the bill), the bill number, a subject-based caption, the section of Vernon's that the law amends, the text of the law, a vote tally, date of the governor's signature, and the effective date. The law is then codified by subject into Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated, which, although privately published, is the official codification for Texas law. The Texas Legislature Online has a free online version of Texas Statutes (by date back to 2004) and enrolled bills back to the 73rd Legislature (1993).
How Do I Find Laws by Subject?
To find laws by subject, begin with either the Texas Code from WestlawNext, LexisNexis Academic, or the Texas Statutes database from the Texas Legislature Online. Otherwise, the best place to begin is with the cumulative indexes to Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated.
- WestlawNext (WTAMU only)
- From the official publisher of Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated. User-friendly search options. Path: Statutes and Court Rules > Texas. To easily browse, click on any link in the Table of Contents, such as Agriculture Code. May search all content or a specific code. Must search a phrase in "quotation marks". Options under Tools and Resources includes a Find Template, Index, and Popular Name Table (of acts).
- LexisNexis Academic (WTAMU only)
- Full-text of the Texas Constitution, Statutes, and Administrative Code from LexisNexis (not compatible with Mozilla Firefox). Path: Search by Content Type > Under Legal, click on State Statutes and Regulations > Advanced Options > Check box for one: Statutory Code, Administrative Code, Constitution > Texas. May then browse or QuickSearch.
- Texas Legislature Online: Texas Statutes
- Full-text of all current Texas statutes. Can QuickSearch. To browse by code section, click on the "plus" sign by "Texas Statutes." Continue to click on "plus" signs to drill down to desired section.
- Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated
- KFT 1230.5 .V4 A32 (Reference)
- The full-text of the statutes, but with additional information in the form of annotations and case notes. The bound volumes are updated by annual cumulative pocket parts and quarterly pamphlet supplements. The subject index includes a table converting session law citations to code citations.
How Do I Find Laws by Number?
To find a law when you have only the bill number, you will need to determine the legislature and session during which the law passed. For laws before the 71st legislature (1989), use the "Bills and Resolutions Approved" table of the appropriate Session Laws to refer you to the proper chapter. The chapter itself with refer you to the appropriate section of Vernon's as well. Alternatively you can use the cumulative Index volumes to Vernon's which has a table converting session law numbers to code sections.
- Texas Legislature Online: Bill Information and History, 1989 -
- Search for bills from the 71st legislature (1989) on. Choose the appropriate legislature, and then search by your bill number. Retrieves either the full-text of the bill, basic history, captions (a brief statement of the subject or intent of the bill), actions (a sequential list of all legislative action on the bill), or a full history.
- Texas Laws and Resolutions Archive
- The Texas Laws and Resolutions Archive from the University of North Texas insures permanent storage and public access to non-current electronic files of the Texas Laws and Resolutions. Select a session and scroll by bill number. May browse the 78th - 84th Legislatures (2003 to 2015).
- Texas Laws and Resolutions Archive (Portal to Texas History)
- May search or browse. Has 78th to present Legislatures (2003 to date). May limit to year or legislature. Through partnership with University of North Texas.
- General and Special Laws of the State of Texas, 1900 -
- S 1.5: (1990-1992 Texas Documents)
- L1800.4 G286 (1993-present Texas Documents)
- Indexed by subject, bill number, and code section affected. Includes proposed constitutional amendments and a list of bills and resolutions vetoed after adjournment. Only published after the session is over. Publishing tends to run about a year behind.
For More Information
- Finding Texas Legislative Documents GODORT
- Although dated 1994, general information on bills, committee hearing, and floor debates is still useful.
- Researching Legislative History and Intent
- A step-by-step guide to doing legislative history research on Texas statutes and bills from the Legislative Reference Library of Texas, the research and reference service of the Texas Legislature.
- Guide to Texas Legislative Information
- Prepared by the Research Staff of the Texas Legislative Council. Link to current PDF, and additional resources, available from Legislative Reference.
- Guide to Texas Legislative History
- By Paris Permenter and Susan Fischer Ratliff. Austin, Tex. : Legislative Reference Library, 1986.
- Y 1.2:8/G94 (Documents/Reference)
- Gammel's Laws of Texas
- H. P. N. Gammel's The Laws of Texas charts Texas law from colonization to statehood and reveals Texas's history during crucial times in its development.
Any questions? Ask a Librarian, or call us at 806/651-2205.