The Texas Legislature convenes every two years on odd-numbered years. During the legislative session, hundreds of bills are introduced by legislators for consideration by the Legislature. While a large portion of these bills never make it to the governor's desk for approval, those that do are codified as law in the Texas statutes and eventually are made available online. If you do not have a specific citation or are unsure of how to locate a law, a search feature is available. For additional assistance, Ask a Librarian.
For a more detailed explanation of how the Legislative process works and how a bill becomes a law, the Texas Legislative Council publishes a Guide to Texas Legislative Information [PDF] that explains this process step by step.
The Texas Statutes
The current Texas Statutes are available on the Texas Legislature's website. While the online version of the statutes contain only the language of the law, the State Law Library has a complete set of Vernon's Texas Codes Annotated which is available for patrons to use in the library or check out overnight. This set provides helpful annotations to case law and secondary sources relevant to a particular statute. If you are unable to visit the library in person, we offer a document delivery service that can provide sections of Vernon's for a fee. To place a document delivery request, please contact us. Vernon's is also available in law libraries across Texas.
If you are trying to access older Texas laws that are no longer in effect, you have a few options.
If the law you are trying to locate was in effect sometime between 2004 and the present, use the Statutes by Date search feature on the Texas Legislature's website.
If you are looking for older Texas laws, there are a handful of online resources that you can consult. The Codes of 1856 are available through the Legislative Reference Library's website if you are trying to view the Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure that were enacted in 1856. The Texas statutes that were in effect starting from 1879 are available on our website. For more information on how to locate old Texas laws, please see our research guide that describes the various sources of Texas historical legal information.
Unfortunately, there is no reliable, official source on the web for Texas statutes that were in effect in the years between the last volume on our historical Texas statutes page and 2004. It is possible to read the language of the statutes by looking at the enrolled version of a bill on the Legislative Reference Library's Legislative Archive system. The Texas State Law Library does keep all historical Texas laws, and we make these available to the public during our normal business hours. If you are unable to visit the library in person, you can contact us to submit a document delivery request or if you would simply like more information on how to locate old Texas statutes.
Legislative Bills and Session Laws
When a bill is to become law, the bill is forwarded to the office of the Texas Secretary of State for filing. These official, signed copies of enacted bills are then uploaded and made available online. Access official, signed copies of enacted bills and resolutions here. The Texas Legislature Online website also allows you to look up or search for bills filed in a particular legislative session.
Apart from the Secretary of State's website, you can also access bills and session laws through the Legislative Reference Library. The LRL maintains an online Legislative Archive system that allows you to search for and find legislation by bill number or session law chapter number. Session laws from 1883 to the present are included. The advanced search option allows you to search by other options such as subject matter, author, or caption. You can also use the LRL's Index to Sections Affected search feature to help you locate the bill that amended a particular statute or to locate a list of the statutes that a particular bill amended.
The University of North Texas (UNT) has early Texas session laws available on their Gammel's The Laws of Texas website. The Laws of Texas 1822-1897 by H.P.N. Gammel is a compilation of the Texas session laws from 1822-1897. The UNT website allows users to search Gammel's by keyword as well as browse by volume.
If you are seeking a signed copy of a bill, please see this brief guide that explains how to access signed copies of bills.
If you are compiling a legislative history or seeking to learn more about the legislative intent for a bill, see the Legislative Reference Library's Guide to Researching Legislative History and Intent which provides a step by step explanation of the process.
All the official documents concerning a bill from the legislative process are compiled into a bill file. These bill files can contain different versions of the bill, bill analyses, financial notes, committee reports, and amendments. If you would like to view bill files for the 71st Legislature (1989) to present, visit the Texas Legislature Online. Please note that for this search a bill number is need. Visit the LRL's Bill-chapter/chapter-bill cross reference tables if you need assistance in determining a bill number.
For older bill files, please visit the LRL's Legislative Archive system. Their project status page has up to date information on what is available electronically. Items not available through the LRL or the Texas Legislature Online are available in print from the Texas State Library which can be reached at (512) 463-5480.
If you would like to view a bill history for a particular bill, the Texas Legislature Online provides histories for bills from the 71st Legislature to present. The LRL has bill histories for bills passed from the 63rd Legislature (1973) to the 71st Legislature. Prior to the 63rd Legislature, information can be found in the House and Senate Journals.
Senate tapes of public committee hearings and floor hearings from the 62nd Legislature (1972) through the 65th (1977) as well as for the 74th Legislature (1995) are available online from the Texas State Library. The tapes for 66th Legislature (1979) through 79th Legislature (2005) can be requested from the State Library. The tapes for 76th Legislature (1999) through the present are available online from the Texas Senate.
All tapes of House proceedings can be obtained through the House media office. Tapes from the 77th Legislature (2001) to the present are available online.
Additional information regarding legislative intent can sometimes be found in the House and Senate Journals. House Journals from the 74th Legislature to the present available on the House of Representatives' website. The Senate Journal from the 76th Legislature to the present is also available online. The State Law Library has many volumes of the House and Senate Journals. Please contact us if you would like to place a document delivery order or if you would simply like more information. You may also want to find a law library near you to check their holdings.