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Answered By: Mindy Kent
Last Updated: Jan 08, 2016     Views: 2042


Legislative history can be a complicated process.  If you'd like to sit down with a librarian to go over the process, please sign up for a research consult (

The basic steps for tracing the legislative history of your law are:

  • Start by looking at the annotated statutes for Massachusetts. They are available in either Westlaw or Lexis.  In the credits for the law, you'll see a history section that will give citations to the session laws, also known as the Massachusetts Acts and Resolves.
  • Next, look up each statutes that you want to trace and identify the bill number. The Acts and Resolves are available from the following sources:

Massachusetts website - 1692-present:

Lexis: 1999-present (MA-Massachusetts Advance Legislative Service)

Westlaw - 1987 - present (MA-LEGIS for current year, MA-LEGIS-OLD for 1987-2009)

HeinOnline Session Law Library -

  • Once you have the bill number you'll need to look at the procedural history of the bill as it moved through the legislature.

Recent bills can be tracked online:

Mass State Website - current session only

Lexis: MABILL - bill text and tracking for current session, MALH (2006-present, selected 2002-2005)

Westlaw: MA-BILLS - bill text and tracking for the current current session, MA-BILLS-OLD (1991-present); MA-LH - includes Massachusetts House (1991-present) and Senate Journals (1998-present)

For bills after 1973 a bill history summary is included in the final volume of each year of the Journal of the House and Senate.

For older bills, you'll need to consult the Bulletin of Committee Work:|library/m/aleph|002789948

  • The bill history will give citations to the Journals of the House and Senate:

Mass State Website:

Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.|library/m/aleph|001733660

Journal of the Senate of Massachusetts.|library/m/aleph|001728226

  • To read the full-text of Massachusetts bills

Westlaw and Lexis contain the full text of recent bills

Print versions of older bills were bound chronologically. Some are available from Widener - Search HOLLIS for the keywords: General Court Documents

Earlier bills are available at the Massachusetts State Library 

  • Next you will need to find the Legislative Packet, which includes the original petition and other documentation. Legislative packets are held at the Massachusetts Archives in Boston. For bills between 1964 and 2006 you may also want to look at the Governor's Legislative Files, also at the Massachusetts Archives.
  •  Additional legislative history information may be found in newspapers, press releases and recordings of the proceedings of the legislature.

These research guides will give you some more guidance:

Answered by Mindy Kent
Last Updated: Jan 08, 2016     Views: 2042

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