Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

New York State Legal Research: Legislative History

Quick Tips

Legislative history attempts to discern the intent of the legislature when making law and is one of the more challenging areas of legal research. Fortunately, the New York State Library has produced a comprehensive guide at http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/leghist/.

Key Concepts

Bills

  • Bills can be introduced in either legislative house. Bills arising in the New York State Assembly carry an "a" prefix. Bills arising in the New York State Senate carry an "s" prefix. Every bill is assigned a number (e.g., a2009 or s1509). Additional letters appended to the end of bills represent subsequent amendments (e.g., a2009a or s1509b).

Sponsor's Memoranda

  • When bills are introduced, they are often accompanied by sponsor's memoranda (explanations of purpose). Sponsor's memoranda can contain summaries of provisions and justifications. When they are present, they are a valuable source of legislative intent.

Bill Jackets

  • After bills have been passed by both houses, they are sent to the governor. Bill jackets can contain sponsor's memoranda, counsel's statements, state agency positions, comments, and opinions. However, they never contain transcripts of hearings. If the governor rejects a bill, a veto memorandum is often attached.

New York State Legislature

The New York State Legislature is composed of two houses:  the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate. The Legislature's website is located at http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us./navigate.cgi. The website contains bills and other legislative materials from 1995-present. The website is not very intuitive or aesthetically pleasing, but it can be searched the furthest back in time.

Bills

  • To search for a bill, go to http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us./navigate.cgi. Select "Bill No." from the dropdown menu. Along the top of the screen, you will see options for status, text, summary, sponsor's memo, and voting. Make sure to check the box for sponsor's memo.

Chapter Laws

  • To search for a chapter law (an enacted bill), go to http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us./navigate.cgi. Select "Chapter No." from the dropdown menu. Along the top of the screen, you will see options for status, text, summary, sponsor's memo, and voting. Make sure to check the box for sponsor's memo.

New York State Assembly

The New York State Assembly is the lower house of the New York State Legislature. The Assembly's website is located at https://nyassembly.gov. The website contains bills and other legislative materials from 1999-present. Although it does not go as far back in time as the Legislature's website, it is easier to use and contains more information (e.g., videos and transcripts).

Bills

  • To search for a bill, go to https://nyassembly.gov/leg/. If you already know the bill number, enter it and click search. Along the top of the screen, you will see options for summary, actions, committee votes, floor votes, memo, text, LFIN, and chamber video/transcript. Make sure to check the box for memo. If you don't already know the bill number, click on the link for Advanced Search. You can narrow your search by term, keyword, committee, etc.

Videos and Transcripts

  • To search for videos or transcripts, go to https://nyassembly.gov/av/. You can narrow your search by session proceedings, committee hearings, events, or keyword.

New York State Senate

The New York State Senate is the upper house of the New York State Legislature. The Senate's website is located at https://www.nysenate.gov. The website contains bills and other legislative materials from 2009-present. One of its main advantages is that you can search for public hearing transcripts.

Bills

  • To search for a bill, go to https://www.nysenate.gov/search/legislation/ and filter the content type by bills. If you already know the bill number, enter it in the box marked "print no" and click search. If you don't already know the bill number, you can narrow your search by session, keyword, committee, etc.

Public Hearing Transcripts

New York State Archives

The New York State Archives is the official repository of bill jackets sent to the governor. The website is located at http://www.archives.nysed.gov. It contains bill jackets from 1995-2018. For bill jackets prior to 1995, try emailing archref@nysed.gov.

Bill Jackets

New York Legislative Service

The New York Legislative Service publishes the New York State Legislative Annual, a yearly compilation of legislative histories of each chapter law, veto, proposed constitutional amendment, and ballot proposal from 1946-present. However, the library only offers print access.

Call No. KFN5014 .N39

5th Floor