Skip to Main Content

New York State Legislative History Research: Introduction

This guide is intended to help researchers locate print and online sources for New York State Legislative History Research.

What is a legislative history for a New York statute?

One of the functions of a court is to interpret the language of a statute when there is doubt as to its meaning, if the language is ambiguous, or if there is a dispute over the facts that have arisen which were not explicitly mentioned or anticipated when the legislators originally wrote the statute.

Since the court cannot go back and call the legislators who drafted the language and simply ask them what they meant, the recourse for this dilemma has come to be to look at the various documents which were produced by the legislature and other parties with an interest in the statute as it worked its way from a bill to a law.

Legislative history has come to mean locating, retrieving and analyzing these documents in an attempt to determine the intent of the legislature when the language of the law is not clear on its face.  In essence, it is the collection and examination of a paper trail, and now, with more sources available online, an electronic trail as well.

This guide will briefly describe the sources that one should consult when compiling the legislative history of a New York State statute.

Subject Guide