Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Special Reports Authorized by the General Court

Part of the process of conducting a full legislative history is to see if there are any special reports that relate to the legislation being researched.  Special reports are reports that result from requests or study directives authorized by the Massachusetts General Court.  They can provide detailed research and background information on topics that were, or are, of particular interest to the legislature; they may (but not always) also help a researcher identify the intent behind a bill or statute.

Special reports can be found in two formats: (1) Many are filed with bills and bound in volumes called “legislative documents”.  These reports, like bills, have document numbers assigned by the House or Senate Clerk, and can be easily confused for bills because of this.  Reports, however, tend to be much longer in length than the average bill text.  (2) Other special reports were/are published as their own documents and are not part of the legislative documents series.

A note on the authors of special reports:  Up until the 1950s, the authors of such reports included standing committees, special commissions, and executive agencies.  In 1954, authorship narrowed with the establishment of the Legislative Research Council, whose purpose was to respond to the constant flow of research requests.  In 1994, the Council was defunct but many of their reports (1964 through 1994) can be accessed on the New England School of Law’s website. Since their disbandment, the responsibility of authoring special reports has once again been placed on legislative committees, special commissions, executive agencies, etc.

How do I find a special report relevant to my research?  The following are indexes that have been compiled by various authors, and organized by subject area.  Please make note of any important citation information in the introductions to each index.

Compiled by Francis X. Blouin, Jr.
1802 - 1882 Index and Guide to Massachusetts State Legislative Documents

Compiled by Francis W. Quinn, III
1883 - 1899 Index of Reports to the General Court

Compiled by Leonard Adams
1883 - 1899 Index to Massachusetts Legislative Documents

Compiled by the Massachusetts Legislative Research Bureau
1900 – 1988 Index of Special Reports Authorized By the General Court

Compiled by the State Library of Massachusetts
1988 – Mar. 1994 Index to Special Reports Authorized By the General Court
Jan. 1994 – Dec. 2005 Index to Special Reports:  Authorized By the General Court

Resources for most recent reports:
•  State Library’s online catalog
•  House, Senate, and Joint committees
•  Mass.gov (agencies and special commissions often post reports to their webpages)

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Librarian