Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

Maryland Resources In-Depth

This State Guide provides an in-depth look at sources of law in Maryland.

Statutory Law

A. Bills & the Legislative Process

This section is a summary of guide prepared by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, The Legislative Process.

Maryland has a two-chamber legislature called the Maryland General Assembly. Its two houses are called the Senate and the House of Delegates. The Maryland General Assembly meets in Annapolis each year from January to April (a "session") and has 47 senators and 141 delegates elected from 47 districts.

When a bill is introduced in the Maryland General Assembly, it follows this process:

1. INTRODUCTION.

When a legislator decides to sponsor legislation, legislative staff aides draft the bill for the legislator's approval. Bills on most subjects may be introduced in either chamber during the first 55 days of a session. After that, a bill may only be introduced with the consent of two-thirds of the membership of the chamber in which it is to be introduced.

2. FIRST READING.

The Maryland Constitution requires that a bill receive three "readings," and favorable votes in each chamber. When a bill is introduced, it receives its first reading. The title, sponsor, and committee assignment of the bill are announced.

3. COMMITTEE ACTION.

The assigned committee holds a hearing to consider the bill. Anyone may testify at the hearing; written statements such as letters and emails from constituents may also be submitted. Later, the committee meets again to consider proposed amendments and to vote on the bill. The bill may be voted "favorable," "favorable with amendments," or "unfavorable." Alternatively, the bill may be referred for interim study. A bill referred for interim study will receive no further action before the next session.

4. SECOND READING.

If the bill receives a favorable committee vote, it will be sent to the full chamber. The bill and any amendments made by the committee are explained to the full chamber. The full chamber may debate the bill, and amendments may be offered from the floor. Votes are taken on the bill and any amendments; these are usually voice votes. If the bill passes the second reading vote, it is reprinted to incorporate the amendments.

5. THIRD READING.

This is the final vote by the full chamber. No amendments may be offered, and a roll call vote must be taken. If the bill passes this vote, it is sent to the other chamber for consideration.

6. SECOND CHAMBER CONSIDERATION.

The consideration process is similar in the second chamber. However, testimony at the committee hearing may be limited, and sometimes only the bill's sponsor will be able to testify. Also, it is possible in the second chamber to propose amendments at the third reading stage. If there are no amendments in the second chamber, the bill is sent to the governor.

7. CONCURRENCE/NON-CONCURRENCE.

If the second chamber passes an amended version of the bill, it is sent back to the original chamber, which will consider the amendments. The chamber of origin may concur in the amendments or reject them. If it rejects them, the second chamber may be asked to withdraw its amendments. If the second chamber agrees, the amendments are stripped from the bill and the second chamber votes again, passing the version of the bill that was approved by the chamber of origin. If it does not agree, either chamber may request a conference committee.

8. CONFERENCE COMMITTEE.

A conference committee consists of three members from each chamber. Conference committees attempt to reach a compromise between the differing versions of the bill passed by each chamber. Four out of six committee members must vote in favor of a compromise bill for it to be "reported out;" otherwise, the bill dies. The conference committee "report" contains the compromise language, and must be approved by both houses before the bill is considered "passed." The conference report cannot be amended.

9. GOVERNOR.

Once both chambers have passed identical versions of the bill, it is sent to the governor for signature or veto. The governor has a limited period of time, usually six days, excluding Sunday, to decide whether to sign or veto a bill, but the exact amount of time varies depending on when the bill is presented. If the governor does not act within the required period, the bill automatically becomes law (Md. Const. art. II, § 17). The General Assembly may override a veto with a three-fifths vote of the elected membership of each chamber. Once the bill is approved, it is assigned a chapter number and becomes part of the Laws of Maryland.

10. WHERE TO FIND BILLS AND BILL INFORMATION?

  • Maryland General Assembly
    • "Legislation by Session" section covers bills from 1996-
    • Using Legislation by Session, you can find a bill or a joint resolution:
      • by bill number
      • by bill sponsor
      • by subject
      • by file code
      • by section of state or local law affected
    • The web site provides bill history by legislative date, as well as different versions of the bill - First Reading, Third Reading, and Enrolled - as available.
    • The web site also provides Senate and House proceedings in audio files and roll call votes.
    • State budget information is also available.
    • The Library and Information Services, Department of Legislative Services publishes a weekly "The Legislative Wrap-Up" during the session, summarizing activities at the legislature. Wrap-ups from prior sessions are also available (1996- ).
  • Depository Libraries: Depository libraries in Maryland (including the University of Maryland Law Library and the Maryland State Law Library) receive copies of bills and bind them; the bound volumes are organized by session, chamber, and bill number.
  • LexisMD Bill Tracking Reports: (1989 - , updated daily during the week)
  • Westlaw:
    • Current session bills: Bill Tracking: Bill Tracking - Summaries & Full Text Combined
    • Prior session bills (1991-last year): Old Bill Tracking: Bill texts only

B. Session Laws

Session laws are compiled in a set of volumes containing all laws enacted during the session. They are given a chapter number after signature by the governor and are published chronologically.

1. WHERE TO FIND SESSION LAWS?

  • Laws of the State of Maryland [KFM1225 .A213] (1876-1985 session laws are shelved in the Historic Core Collection and must be requested at the circulation desk)
  • Sessions Laws (1996- ) are available through by searching Legislation by Session on the Maryland General Assembly Web Site.
  • Session LawsHeinOnline, (1692- )
  • LexisMD-Maryland Advance Legislative Service - The Maryland Advance Legislative Service contains the full text of all laws enacted during a legislative session (1989-)
  • Westlaw:
    • Current Session: Maryland Legislative Service: for statutes passed in the current session
    • Historical: Maryland Historical Legislative Service (1990-last year).

<<Top>>

C. The Maryland Code (Subject Compilation)

Enacted laws published in the Laws of the State of Maryland are arranged chronologically, which presents problems for researchers who are looking for current law on a particular subject. To facilitate research for current law, statutes are arranged by subject in the Maryland Code. Like the United States Code and other state codes, the Maryland Code is a subject compilation of enacted legislation, divided into articles, titles, chapters and sections.

Michie's Annotated Code of the Public General Laws of Maryland consists of a set of "black books"containingthe numbered articles and a set of "red books" (actually maroon in color) containing the named articles. The reason for the existence of both the "black books" and the "red books" is that the Michie's Annotated Code of Maryland is in the process of being revised. Since the early 1970s, the State has started to repeal statutes in the "black books" and recompile them into revised articles in the "red books." Eventually, all the "black books" will be replaced. Depending on where you find the provisions you need, you cite either to MD. CODE ANN by subject (the "red books") or to MD. ANN.CODE of 1957 (the "black books"). Table T.1 of the Bluebook gives a list of subject abbreviations.

The complete Maryland Code, both the "black books" and the "red books," is indexed in two softcover index volumes, which are updated annually. The index is a "subject" or "topic" index, not a keyword index. For example, if you look under "advertisement" when trying to find "false advertisement," a cross-reference should lead you to the right entry.

The Maryland Code is updated by pocket parts. Prior to the publication of each year's pocket parts, the Advance Legislative Service (which reproduces the acts passed by the Maryland General Assembly and approved by the Governor) is issued. It includes tables that show the impact of legislation on sections of the Code. The Advance Code Service pamphlets are published three times a year to update statutory material and annotations.

1. WHERE TO FIND THE MARYLAND CODE?

  • Print:
    • Current: Michie's Annotated Code of the Public General Laws of Maryland [KFM1230 1957.A4]
    • Historic: Superseded volumes of the Annotated Code of the Public General Laws of Marylandall the way back to the 19th century are kept in the Historic Core Collection. These volumes must be requested at the circulation desk.
  • Web:
  • Lexis:
  • Westlaw:

<<Top>>

D. Legislative History

"Legislative history" refers to the legislative documents that are produced by the Maryland General Assembly during the process of studying and debating a bill, and ultimately enacting a statute. For a guide to the law-making process, check the section "Bills & the Legislative Process" above. Legislative history includes the following documents:

  • Bills: See above for more information.
  • Senate and House proceedings: Audiotapes and written records of floor action.
  • Committee hearing records: Most of the available testimony consists of written statements; audiotapes of hearings are available for some bills.
  • Committee reports: From 1982 through 2001, bills reported out of certain "standing committees" (the committees that regularly consider bills before their second reading on the floor) were required to be accompanied by a committee report that included section-by-section analysis, background information, and an explanation of legislative intent. This requirement never applied to all committees and was abolished for legislative sessions after 2001. Conference committees still issue reports when they report out compromise bills.
  • Fiscal Notes: Every bill reported out of committee must be accompanied by a fiscal note which analyzes the likely financial impact of enacting the bill. Since 2002, some of these notes also provide section-by-section analysis of the bill, a brief restatement of current law, and background on the reasons for the bill.
  • Session laws: See above for more information.

For more detailed descriptions of the documents of Maryland legislative history, consult Ghost Hunting: Searching for Maryland Legislative History by Michael S. Miller and Judith C. Levinson of the Maryland State Law Library.

Legislative history materials for Maryland laws enacted before 1975 are hard to find. Of the materials listed above, only the bills and session laws themselves and the House and Senate Journals are available for pre-1975 legislation. Another resource for pre-1975 legislative history research is theLegislative Council Report to the General Assembly (1941-1976), also known as the "Blue Book." TheLegislative Council Report included bills recommended by the Legislative Council for the upcoming session, actual minutes of the Council, and committee or special reports.

1. WHERE TO FIND LEGISLATIVE HISTORY DOCUMENTS?

  • Bills: See above.
  • Senate and House proceedings:
    • Maryland General Assembly Web Site
    • Audiocassettes of floor debates (1992-) are available for listening and duplication at theLegislative Services Library in Annapolis.
    • Journals of the Senate and House of Delegates: Official records of the proceedings of the Senate and the House for the entire session are available in the Legislative Services Library and in depository libraries throughout the state. These journals do not provide verbatim records of debate, but do provide a bill's committee assignment, votes on bill amendments, and the final roll call vote.
  • Committee hearing records: Available only in the committee bill files. For information on the bill files, see the heading "Committee bill files" below.
  • Committee reports:
    • Conference committee reports:
      • Maryland General Assembly Web Site. Conference committee reports (1996- ) are available from the General Assembly as part of each session's proceedings.
      • Westlaw (1997-). The easiest way to retrieve materials in this database is to do a terms and connectors search in the title field for the session (year) and bill number. Example: ti(2004 & "house bill 172").
    • Standing committee reports:
      • Standing committee reports, when they exist, are included in the General Assembly's committee bill files. For information on the bill files, see the heading "Committee bill files" below.
  • Fiscal notes:
    • Maryland General Assembly Web Site.
      Selected fiscal notes (1996-) are available through the House and Senate proceedings. From the proceedings, click a linked bill number and scroll to the bottom of the page for that bill's fiscal note.
    • Westlaw (1996-). The easiest way to retrieve materials in this database is to do a terms and connectors search in the title field for the session (year) and bill number. Example: ti(2004 & "house bill 172").
    • Fiscal notes are included in the General Assembly's committee bill files. For information on the bill files, see the heading "Committee bill files" below.
  • Committee bill files:
  • Session laws: See above.