Monday, May 11, 2015

The Legislative Documents Series is Not just full of bills!

An example of a memorandum issued by
the Secretary of the Commonwealth in 1977
Proposed legislation (i.e. bills) make up the majority of the material found within the Massachusetts Legislative Documents series. However, there are other types of documents included that may be important for your research.  What was published in the series can vary year by year, but it’s important to be aware of these types of documents.  Here are some examples of what you may find:
  • Governor’s inaugural speeches and annual messages:  Often published as Senate document 1.
    1941 Senate No. 0001 – Annual message
  • Governor’s veto and amendment messages:  In addition to the power to veto, Article LVI of the Amendments to the MA Constitution invests the governor with the right to return a bill, laid before him or her, to the originating branch of the General Court with amendment recommendations.  These messages issued to the legislature can explain why particular changes were made to a bill or why a bill was not ultimately signed.
    1947 Senate No. 637 - Governor’s veto message
    1948 House No. 2422 - Governor’s amendment recommendations
  • “Memoranda” from such offices as the Commissioner of Corporations and Taxation and the Secretary of the Commonwealth (see image):
    1946 House No. 1445 - Commissioner of Corporations and Taxation
  • Justices of the Supreme Court opinions:  the legislature often requests the opinions of the Justices of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts when the constitutionality or legality of a piece of legislation arises.
    1948 Senate No. 546
  • Other Legislative Recommendations:  The Governor is not the only official who can recommend legislation and amendments.  Any state officer or dept. head making an annual report may include therein, in even-numbered years, recommendations for legislative action and detailed explanations (see MGL Chap. 30, section 33).
    1946 House No. 94 - Secretary of the Commonwealth
    1948 House No. 93 - Department of Mental Health
    1941 House No. 66 – State Examiners of Electricians
The State Library’s legislative documents collection runs from 1802 to the most recent volume. To search what is currently available in our digital legislative documents database, please visit the following address and check back as more will be added in the future: 

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department