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Legislative History

Understanding the intent of a law often influences legal arguments. Legislative history material helps people understand why laws were passed. The Law Library offers several resources.

There are two main ways researchers can try to understand what the General Assembly was thinking when it passed a law: the bill's preamble or bill files.

A bill's preamble often contains the General Assembly's reason for the bill. This can be found as part of the actual House or Senate bills as well as in the chapter laws on the General Assembly's website and the Archives Online Session Laws website.

Bill files consist of supplementary documents the General Assembly utilizes during session when debating bills. These documents may consist of fiscal notes, newspaper clippings, and any other document submitted during the legislative process. Bill files are only available at select repositories throughout the state, including the Baltimore County Law Library.

Resources for Researching Legislative Intent

  • Bill Files on Microfilm, beginning 1976
  • Appellate Briefs on Microfiche, beginning 1970
  • Laws of Maryland, beginning 1799

About the Resources

  • The bill files are the most complete collection available outside of Annapolis. However, the most recent bill files scanned are several years old.
  • The appellate briefs include both the Court of Special Appeals as well as the Court of Appeals briefs.
  • The Laws of Maryland are an often-overlooked resource of legislative intent. The purpose of the bill is often found in the pre-amble or section 1 of the acts.

Please call to verify the library holds the year(s) you want to search. There is a charge for copying material.

Pre-1976 Bill Files

From approximately 1940 to 1975 select legislative history information was compiled in the Legislative Council Report to the General Assembly books. These were called “Blue Books,” and they are part of the Digital Collections of the Maryland State Law Library. The State Law Library hosts a comprehensive guide to researching legislative history titled Ghosthunting: Searching for Maryland Legislative History.

Further legislative history information may be available through the Maryland Department of Legislative Services Library.

Revised July 21, 2021         


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