Researching the Legislative History of an Enacted Georgia statute
Before you begin...
Be sure you are familiar with how legislation is passed in Georgia.
- Passing a Law in the Georgia General Assembly
- Handbook for Georgia Legislators, JK4330 .H3, Basement
Decide how much time you want to spend
In general, state legislative history is elusive and Georgia is no exception. The Georgia General Assembly does not publish transcripts of its floor debate or committee reports. The hunt for legislative intent can be time-consuming and may not always produce results. To avoid frustration, decide up front how much time you are willing to devote this research task.
Also keep in mind, the Georgia courts primarily look at the plain meaning of the statute when determining legislative intent. You may do a great deal of research into the legislative intent of a statute only to have your argument rejected by the court.
Georgia Legislative History Resources
Consult an annotated code such as the O.C.G.A. to identify relevant session laws
Following the text of each statute, you'll find references to the statute's session laws. Session law citations will appear in the following format: Ga. L. 1985, p. 1331, § 4.
Review the text of the session laws
Session laws are all the laws from a given legislative session in the order in which they were passed, and they include special and private acts that never become part of the codified laws.
Often, a bill's preamble will include a statement of purpose. You'll also want to compare versions of the statute if it has been amended
- Acts and resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia, KFG25 .A2, Main Floor, 1870 - present
- Heinonline, 1995-2007
- Georgia Legislative Documents, http://www.galileo.usg.edu/express?link=zlgl, 1799-1999.
Consult the GSU Law Review's "Peach Pages"
The Georgia State University Law Review reviews selected Georgia legislation in its fall issues. You can easily spot the fall issue because the actual color of the pages is peach. The "Peach Pages" include analysis of the bills, relevant floor debate, personal interviews, and newspaper articles.
- Georgia State University Law Review, K7 .E74 , Main Floor, v. 1 - present
- Heinonline, 1984-2007
- Lexis, Georgia State University Law Review, 1996-present
- Web, http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/query.cgi?context=gsulr&field_1=document_type&op_1=eq&value_1=peachsheet&advanced=1, 2000 - present,
- Westlaw, 1993 - present
Check Lexis or Westlaw's legislative history databases
- Westlaw - GA-LH - bill histories, amendments, vote records, daily reports, weekly reports, news releases and governor's messages. Coverage varies by document type but generally documents from 2000 - to present are included.
- Lexis - Georgia Legislative Bill History - Bill analyses, governor's messages, committee reports, fiscal messages and summary amendments. Coverage varies by document type but generally documents from 2000 - to present are included.
Review the Georgia House and Senate Journals
The Journals contain little valuable legislative history. The bill text is not in the Journals, but text of amendments is included. They also contain votes, committee actions, amendments, and sponsors.
- Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Georgia, KFG18 .A25, 2nd Floor, Law Library Annex, 1834 - present
- Journal of the Senate of the State of Georgia, KFG18 .A26, 2nd Floor, Law Library Annex, 1810 - present
Compare versions of bills
By comparing different versions of a bill, you can identify which text has been added or deleted from a bill. Sometimes, these additions or deletions can help clarify the legislative intent of the bill.
Check the Georgia Legislative Network
The Georgia Legislative Network (GLN) is available from the Georgia General Assembly's website: http://www.legis.ga.gov/. The GLN has video files of Georgia House committee hearings from 2007 to present. The website indicates that due to server space restrictions, only the most current video feeds are available. You can contact the House Communications Office for information of archived meetings. Also while the General Assembly is in session, you can watch gavel-to-gavel coverage of the proceedings at the GLN.
Look for media coverage
- Lexis - Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1991-current
- Westlaw - ATLNTAJC - 1988 - present
- AJC.com - http://www.ajc.com
- Daily Report - Daily Report Online
- Georgia Public Broadcasting's GPTV provides nightly detailed analysis of the day's legislative sessions on the program Lawmakers, http://www.gpb.org/lawmakers. Archived versions of the television show are available from the website, 2002 - present
- Senate Radio, http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation, an audio archive of press conferences and statements made by Senators
Contact the Georgia General Assembly
- In Atlanta - 404 656-0028
- Outside Atlanta area - 800 282 -5803