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
collection, use worksheets we have completed in the past, or contact
us for assistance.
session laws to be researched
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.
bills and amendments
LD and amendment numbers
LD numbers only
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.
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.
floor debate and proceedings
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.
for 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 http://www.maine.gov/legis/opla/reports2.htm
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
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)
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
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.