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New York Research In-Depth

This guide explains the process of making laws and regulations in the state of New York.

Legislative History

"Legislative history" refers to the documents created by the legislature in the course of the legislative process. Legislative histories are usually consulted to investigate the legislative intent behind a statute. The following publications contribute to the understanding of how New York courts use legislative history:

Relatively little explanatory material is available for New York legislation. The following types of legislative history materials are available for New York laws:

  • Bills
  • Introducer's memoranda (also known as "sponsor's memoranda," or "legislative memoranda")
  • Governor's memoranda: The governor is required to explain why he vetoes a bill in a veto memorandum unless the bill is "pocket vetoed"; he is not required to write an approval memorandum giving reasons for approving the bill. Since the memorandum is written after the bill has passed both houses, it does not really reflect legislative intent.
  • Bill jackets: Include opinions from interested parties that are collected by the Governor's Counsel's office and the governor's approval memoranda (or if the bill is vetoed, a veto memorandum)
  • Approval jackets
  • Veto jackets (should be consulted if the bill that the Governor vetoed in a previous year was reintroduced and subsequently approved)
  • Recall jackets (recalling or withdrawing bills from the governor's office was declared unconstitutional in 1993)
  • Transcripts of legislative floor debates and hearings: All hearings are transcribed, but only a limited number of copies are produced for the chairperson of the hearing committee, selected legislative officers, the Legislative Library, and the New York State Library. "Debates are generally not a useful tool in determining legislative intent. They reflect only the stated views of the legislators who participate, but do not serve as an indication of the combined opinions of their colleagues. ... And, unlike an opinion written by an adjudicating body, legislative debates, often extemporaneous, constitute arguments made by those attempting to persuade, and not formal declaratory pronouncements explaining a determination." Board of Education of City School District of City of New York v. City of New York, 87 Misc. 2d 179, 185 (1976)
  • Governor's annual message

Where to find Legislative History