Statutes

The state legislature meets every two years on odd-numbered years. During the legislative session, hundreds of bills are introduced by legislators for consideration. The bills that become law are then arranged by subject matter into various codes as the Texas statutes. The statutes are then published in print and online. Read the Texas statutes online .

The legislature also meets when the governor calls a special session. During a special session, the constitution states that “there shall be no legislation upon subjects other than those” set forth in the governor's proclamation or otherwise presented to the legislature by the governor.

For a more detailed explanation of the legislative process, the Texas Legislative Council publishes “The Legislative Process in Texas” and other resources that explain how a bill becomes law.


Texas Statutes (2004 – present) Historical Texas Statutes (1879 – 1984)

The current Texas statutes are available online.

In print, Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated is considered the official version of the statutes. Vernon's includes helpful annotations to case law, prior versions of the law, and other secondary sources.

Our library has print copies of Vernon's, and it is also available at many law libraries across Texas.


Texas Statutes Legislative Recaps (2013 – present) Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Our library's digitization efforts have brought online over 100 years of historical Texas statutes! We are proud to provide free public access to digitized copies of the Texas statutes from 1879 through 1984.

Years Source
Codes of 1856 — Legislative Reference Library
1879 – 1984 Historical Texas Statutes — State Law Library
1985 – 2004 Not online — see note below
2004 – present Statutes by Date — Texas Legislature Online

There is no free, public source on the web for codified Texas statutes in effect between the last volume on our historical Texas statutes page and 2004. For these intervening years, the Legislative Reference Library's Legislative Archive system provides access to the session laws.

The State Law Library has an extensive print collection of historical Texas statutes, and we make these available to the public during our normal business hours. If you cannot visit the library in person, Ask a Librarian for assistance.


Texas Statutes (1879 – 1984) Texas Statutes (2004 – present) Guide to Historical Texas Statutes

Signed copies of bills

Sessions Years Source
83rd – present 2013 – present Legislative Reference Library's guide to signed copies of bills on the Secretary of State's website
78th – present
2003 – present Texas Laws and Resolutions Archive — University of North Texas, Portal to Texas History
63rd – 79th 1973 – 2005 Legislative Reference Library's Legislative Archive System — digitization ongoing, see their status page for coverage
1st – 62nd 1846 – 1972 Texas State Library and Archives — includes bills from the Republic of Texas

Session laws

After a regular legislative session, the general and special laws are published by the secretary of state. This collection is arranged by chapters.

Format Source
Online Legislative Reference Library's Legislative Archive System has digitized session laws going back to 1871 — digitization ongoing, see their status page for coverage
Print State Law Library has a collection of session laws from 1822 to present day

 

Texas Legislature Online Legislative Archive System Guide to Texas Session Laws

About

Researching the history of a law or why the legislature enacted a law involves looking at different sources. Each source helps inform the intent behind the legislation.

Many sources have been digitized and are available online. For older legislation, you may need to listen to audiotape recordings of committee hearings. For very old legislation, more advanced historical research techniques may be needed.

The Guide to Researching Legislative History and Intent from the Legislative Reference Library explains what sources to use and links you to any digitized materials.

Bill Files

Official documents concerning a bill from the legislative process are compiled into a bill file. Bill files may contain different versions of the bill, bill analyses, financial notes, committee reports, and amendments.

Sessions Years Source
71st – present 1989 – present Texas Legislature Online
33rd – 79th 1913 – 2005 Legislative Archive System  from the Legislative Reference Library — see their project status page for current coverage
1st – 62nd 1846 – 1972 Texas State Library and Archives
Congress of the Republic of Texas 1836 – 1845 Texas State Library and Archives

Bill History

A bill's history is a list of all the legislative actions that were taken on the bill and the date each action occurred. Additional information like a committee's name may also be listed.

This information is important because you can identify when the bill was discussed by a committee. Recordings or other records from the hearing can help you understand legislative intent.

Sessions Years Source
71st – present 1989 – present Texas Legislature Online
63rd – 85th 1973 – 2017 Legislative Archive System  from the Legislative Reference Library — see their project status page for current coverage
1st – 62nd 1846 – 1972 For any bill whose history is not already compiled, information may be found in the House and Senate Journals available on the Legislative Reference Library's website

Committee Hearings and Floor Debates

Each chamber of the legislature has its own media office that handles audio and video recordings.

Senate

Sessions Years Source
76th – present 1999 – present Senate Audio/Video Archive
62nd – 79th 1971 – 2006 Texas Digital Archive  from the Texas State Library and Archives

House

Sessions Years Source
77th – present 2001 –  present House Video/Audio — includes both committee hearings and chamber proceedings
57th & 63rd – 68th 1962, 1973, 1975 – 1979, 1981 – 1984 Texas Digital Archive  from the Texas State Library and Archives — only certain proceedings available

Journals

Additional information may be found in the House and Senate Journals. See the House and Senate Journals collection from the Legislative Reference Library.

page last updated: 2 Dec 2020 10:24 AM