Friday, February 26, 2010

Debate Coverage in the House and Senate

Patrons often ask about debate in the House and
Senate chambers when they are researching laws. The discussion is an important source for determining the intent of legislation.

The State House News Service, a private news-gathering organization covering Massachusetts state government, began providing accounts of formal House and Senate sessions in 1972. These are not transcripts, but they may quote what was said by the legislators on a particular bill. Remote access to this database is not provided; it must be accessed on site. Reference librarians guide patrons in conducting a legislative history and will log users into this electronic resource to ascertain whether any debate was recorded.

Selected House proceedings are available in audio or video format going back to 1984. Beginning in 1996 the Senate videotaped certain proceedings.

Sessions in both chambers are now accessible through webcasts. The House and Senate began taping on January 1, 2007. The proceedings can be viewed at

Reference Staff