Legislative History – Variations on a Theme

The following documents offer various perspectives on doing legislative history in Vermont. Their posting here implies no endorsement of their content; indeed, some are quite out of date. They are edited only to the extent that superfluous material has been [omitted], and minor grammatical errors have been corrected. Nothing here is offered, nor should anything be construed, as legal advice.

TO: [Omitted]
FROM: [Omitted]
SUBJECT: Vermont Legislative Intent
DATE: October 13, 1993

    In response to the NCSL survey, I am forwarding the completed form and the attached materials.
Several comments are in order with respect to legislative research for intent purposes in Vermont. First and foremost, the Vermont courts do cite legislative intent.

Court Interperetation
    While particular emphasis is placed on a statute’s plain meaning, the courts do not ignore supporting documentation that is indicative of intent.
    Most recently, in Kelley v. Moguls, 4 VT Law Week 157 (1993), there is a reiteration of the Vermont judicial interpretation with respect to legislative intent. As you will read from the highlighted language, the Vermont Supreme court does indeed place its emphasis on the actual statute. However, the court (sic) is not adverse to citing from journals and original bills to sustain a ruling. On occasion, the Vermont Legislative Council has received judicial requests to review bill files.

Legislative Reports
    Enclosed is a compilation entitled Reports in the Journals of the Vermont House and Senate. This publication was edited at the Vermont State Archives in the Secretary of State’s Office. It provides the most comprehensive source to legislative reports that have appeared in the House or Senate journals. As the text indicates, since the early 1930s legislative reports have been published separately.

Legislative History
    A companion publication entitled “How a Bill Becomes Law” was also written at the State Archives. However, on Page 3 entitled “Vermont Legislative History”, the text indicates that drafting files may be viewed at the Division of Public Records. This is incorrect; all drafting, or as we refer to them bill files, must be requested from and viewed at the Legislative Council. Due to the statutory legislator-counselor privilege in drafting, all files must be reviewed by a staff member of the Council before they may be viewed by the general public.
    In compiling a legislative history, the attorney or researcher should start at the Legislative Council. The Council maintains a collection of House and Senate journals dating from the 1940s. Similarly, we also maintain an original bill collection that dates from 1945 forward. Complete collections of these documents are available at the state library. The researcher initially can consult the Vermont Statutes Annotated to determine the session law source of a particular statutory section. Section affected tables are published in the annual session law volumes. The original bill numbers are indicated with the individual session law.
    Each bill that is introduced into either house of the General Assembly is indexed with respect to all action taken in the respective journal of each chamber. The journals will include roll call votes and amendments (from committees or the floor). Bills are frequently, but not always, printed in the journal after either second or third reading. If a bill is not amended in committee, it may not be printed in the final version of the journal and reference will be made during the dabate to the bill books that contain the original bills of that legislative session. Journalized comments, roll call votes and divsion votes are printed. As for voice votes, the journal will indicate that third reading was agreed to, the bill was passed, or that it was messaged to the other chamber or the governor.
       The journals, original bills, session laws and statutory complations will provide the starting materials for a legislative history. As noted in the guide, review of prior statutory compilations and pocket parts alterations is important. These printed sources are available in the state library. The journals do not contain a verbatim transcript of floor proceedings.
    Beyond these materials, the researcher can review the bill file, through the Legislative Council or listen to committee tapes. The committees began to systematically record both meetings and hearings in 1967 when the Legislative Council was organized. In certain instances, the tapes have been transcribed and microfilmed. Not all committee proceedings are available on tape. The tapes and films are stored at the Division of Public Records in Middlesex, but if the researcher initially visits the Council, the process is expedited. Council staff will confirm the existence of a tape or transcript as well as the film or tape number.
    Separately, the State Archives maintains all original bills enacted since 1800 and the committee clerks’ files. These are the notes and tallies that the member clerks, as distinguished from clerical clerks, take at the committee meetings. While they date from 1917, they are not necessarily complete for each session and there are significant gaps from some committees.

Historical notes
    The researcher should be aware that in Vermont the second or annual session only started in 1968. Prior to that date, the Legislature met regularly in odd numbered years and in a number of special sessons during both odd and even numbered years. On occasion special sessions are still held in the summer of fall. The latest was in the summer of 1993. Bills in Vermont during the biennial sesson remain pending through the subsequent adjourned session. The numbering is sequential throughout the two year biennium. The adjourned session is not restricted to specified topics, and members may introduce new legislation during either session.
    Until 1836, Vermont was a unicameral state. The Senate was created in that year by a constitutional amendment. The Senate replaced the Governor’s Council. Until 1870, Vermont had a Council of Censors which met decennially at the beginning of the decade to suggest potential constitutional amendments and other governmental reforms. The proceedings of these meetings have been collected in a recently released volume entitled Records of the Council of Censors, that was published by the Vermont Secretary of State’s office. This volume is an important guide to the political and governmental deliberations that were occurring from the late 18th century, prior to statehood until the post Civil War period.

Vermont Legislative History:
Where to find it and what to do with it

Statutory construction, like medicine, is not an exact science, but there are ways of seeing what statutes mean. The plain meaning is one place to start. Then there are the latin rules – ejusdem generis, expressio unius est esclusio alterius, in pari materia, and reddendo singula singulis. Sometimes newer beats older, specific beats general, meaningful beats absurd results. (State v. Lynch, 137 VT 607 (1979)). “Even the most basic general principles of statutory construction,” however, “must yield to clear contrary evidence of legislative intent” as found in the history of a statute. (National R. Passenger Corp. v. National Association of R. Passengers, 414 U.S. 453, 38 L.Ed.2d 646, 94 S.Ct. 690 (1974)).
Vermont legislative history is where you find it. The hunt may be arduous, the game uncertain, but if you follow the simple steps outlined in this paper, you may at least test, knowing you have learned what can be learned about the legislative history of a statute. The first rule is to go to Montpelier.[footnote omitted; comment only]. In Montpelier, you find the State House with little trouble. In addition to the committee rooms, the chambers of the Vermont House of Representatives and Senate, and legislative library, you will need to find the Legislative Council offices. You will also want to learn the location of the Office of the Secretary of State, at Redstone, on Terrace Street; of the Division of Public Records [old address omitted]; of the State Library, at 111 State Street; and of the Vermont Historical Society Library, on the first floor of the Pavilion Building, at 109 State Street.
The next rule is to learn what you can from the statute. For the purpose of illustration, let’s assume our assignment is to research the legislative history of the Appeals Panel. [footnote omitted; comment only]. Looking at the publisher’s notes at the end of 3 V.S.A. sec. 114a, you find, “Added 1973, No. 267 (Adj. Sess), sec. 2; amended 1983, No. 220 (Adj. Sess), sec. 9.” This means the statute was first enacted in 1974. [footnote omitted; comment only]. No. 267 is the act number. The original text as enacted may be found in the Acts and Resolves of Vermont 1973 (Adj. Sess.), an annual publication of the Secretary of State and easily found in most public libraries. The 1974 act was amended in 1984, according to these notes. The Revision Notes below them give a brief description of how that amendment did.
Looking at the enabling legislation of the Appeals Panel (1973, No. 267 (Adj. Sess.)), on page 590 of the Acts and Resolves of Vermont 1973 (Adj. Sess.) just below the caption, we see a parenthetical number, “(H. 528).” This tells is that Act 267 was originally introduced as a House bill, H. 528. [footnote omitted; comment only]. This clue leads us inexorably to the next step, tracing the progress of the bill.
Turn to the House Journals for the years 1973 and 1974. H. 528 could have been introduced in either year, so both volumes need to be checked, although the large number should give us a hint that it is a bill from the adjourned session. In fact, it was first introduced in 1974.
The place to start is Appendix B in the House Journal. Each bill and its enactment or consideraton history of briefly described there. On page 929, for instance, under H. 528 and after the title, you will find a similar type paragraph that explains,

Rep. by C. on H. & W., rd. 1st t., pl. on Cal., 197-198; ref. to C. on Appr., 202; rep. fav. w. amend., rd. 2nd t., recom. of amend. amended, recom. of amend. not amend., recom. of amend. agreed to., rls. susp., ord. mess. to Sen., 6410646; Sen. mess., pass. in con. w. prop. of amend., 793; rls. susp., Sen. mess., pass. in con. w. rpop. of amend. con. in, rls. susp., act. ord. mess. to Sen. & bill ord. delvd. to Gov., 796; Gov. mess., app. 873-874

Let’s translate, using the abbreviation list at the beginning of Appendix B. H. 529 was reported by the Committee on Health and Welfare in the House, read the first time and placed on the Calendar. On pages 197-198, we can see that Mr. Sloan of Rutland City introduced the bill for the Committee on Tuesday, February 12, 1974, that it was read the first time and, under the rule, placed on the Calendar for notice the following day. [footnote omitted; comment only]. A thorough researcher will want to see a copy of this bill as introduced, to begin tracing its evolution at this early stage. Copies of all bills as introduced may be found in bound volumes in the Legislative Council library, for at least the last two decades. We also ought to visit the State Papers to look at the original act, which will reveal at a glance how the bill as introduced was changed before it was signed into law by the Governor.
Because H. 528 is a committee bill (introduced not by individual legislators, but by a committee), we will also want to investigate the minutes of the House Committee on Helath and welfare for 1973 and 1974, to learn what events brought the Committee to the realization H. 528 was necessary. Calling the Divison of Public Records before we visit that office, we can also arrange to see the draftsman’s notes an early drafts of the bill, showing its prereporting history. These files are more likely to be useful in legislative searches for bills with sponsors than those by committee, since bills with sponsors tend to be more privileged and involve a longer prepublication drafting process. [footnote omitted]
Back to our hieroglyphics now, we learn that H. 528 is referred to the Committee on Appropriations. On page 202 of the House Journal we learn this occurred on Wednesday, February 13. Which committees consider a bill may be vitally important in tracing its legislative history, since all committees keep minutes of their daily activity and many committees, at least since 1970, tape record and have transcripts made of hearings on their work. [footnote omitted; comment only] All committee minutes, except for the current year, are kept in State papers, the state’s archives at Redstone. To use the transcripts, you should call the Legislative Council with the number of the bill and the list of committees that considered it, to learn the reel number of microfilm on which those transcripts may be found. The microfilm is kept at Public Records. You can go there in person to view it, or order copies made by phone (828-3288).
H. 528 stayed in the comfortable hands of the Appropriations Committee until Thursday, March 28, when it started to move again. Mr. Hebard of Glover reported in favor of its passage on that day in its amended version. The Appropriations Committee, by this report, proposed to “strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu thereof” a new version of the bill. This new version of H. 528 should be added to your legislative history file next to the copy as originally introduced back on February 12, to see what changes have been made in the interim. Transcripts and minutes will also be useful in some cases to show the thinking behind the amendments.
Page 645 of the House Journal for March 28 tells us “the bill, having appeared on the Calendat one day for motice, was taken up, read the second time and pending the question, Will the House amend the bill as recommended by the Committee on Appropriations?” Mr Sloan of Rutland City, Mr. Haley of Bennington and Mr. Tudhope of South Burlington each moved to amend the amendment proposed by the Appropriations committee. Mr. Sloan and Mr. Tudhope were successful, but Mr. Haley’s motion to amend failed. [footnote omitted; comment only] A third reading of the bill was ordered, Mr Tudhope of South Burlington moved and the House voted to suspend the rules, and the bill passed that day. The rules were ordered further suspended and the bill was ordered messaged to the Senate forthwith.
In other words, H. 528 was ready to go when it hit the House floor on March 28. The committee and the legislative leadership had done their work and, with the rules suspensions, the bill traveled to the Senate and eventually through all later stages of passage, in time to avoid the early April adjournment of the General Assembly.
Now we must turn to the Senate Journal for 1974, to follow the bill’s progress in that chamber. Looking at the Appendix under H. 528, we learn that the bill was

Rec. fr. H., 475; rd. & ref., 476; rep. fav. w. props. of amend., rd. 2nd t., props. of amend. offered by Sen. Harwood 7 agreed to, further prop. of amend. offered by Sen. Daniels & agreed to & 3rd rdg. or., rules susp., all stages, rd. 3rd t. & passed iun con. w. props. of amend., ord. mess. to H. pursuant to Temp. Ruls, 600-601; H. mess. S. props. of amend. con. in, 657-658; H. mess. Gov. app. 661-662.

Waiving consecutive translation, this means H. 528 was received from the House, and then referred to the Senate judiciary Committee. Pages 475 and 476 of the Senate Journal tell us this happened on March 29, 1974. Further, the bill was reported favorably [footnote omitted; comment that bill was actually reported without recommendation] with proposals of amendment by Senator Buckley, for the Committee, read the second time, with proposals of amendment adopted, the third reading ordered, passed in concurrance with the proposals of amendment, and returned to the House. These last steps occurred on April 3. Looking back to the House Journal (page 796), we see that H. 528 passed the House that same day, the House agreeing to the proposals of amendment, and sent on to the Governor. The Governor signed H. 528 into law on April 4.
Looking back over the progress of H. 528, we can only be grateful its progress was so easy. Proposed on February 12 and finally made law on April 4, reviewed by three committees, amended twice since its introduction, the enactment stage of the bill’s legislative history is nice and neat. Not all legislation had it so easy.
Let’s go back over that same ground now, and see what happened to H. 528, as it relates to the Appeals Panel, as it progressed from committee to committee and House to Senate. For this discussion, we will be using five basic sources – the draftsman’s file on H. 528, which is in the custody of Public Records; the bill as introduced, which is found in the library of the Legislative Council; the original act, as amended, which is in the custody of State Papers; the minutes of committees considering H. 528, which are at State Papers; and finally the transcripts of committee hearings, which are at Public Records. We will want to look at these documents in this order, in part to appreciate the chronological history of a bill, and in part because the minutes will save us time hunting through the microfilm transcripts of committees to find the days committees discussed particular bills.
The draftsman’s file is available through Public Records, but it may be stored in Waterbury. Public Records will bring the file to Montpelier at our request, but since this may take a day or two, we will want to call ahead to make arrangements to see the file. Some attorneys find great insight in these files; others remain unconvinced of their usefulness. For this exercise, we viewed the file on H. 528 and found the material unhelpful. It was disorganized, and gave is no insight into what was in the mind of the Committee of the draftsman. That will not be true in every case.
We went to the library at the Legislative Council to find a copy of H. 528 as originally introduced by the House Health and Welfare Committee. Making a copy, we went up the hill to Redstone, to look at what happened to H. 528 when it became Act 267.
Section 2 of H. 528 as originally introduced relates to the Appeals Panel. While our review revealed little new information in this instance, the differences between legislation as introduced, amended and enacted can be a fertile area for insight into what the Legislature intended. The knowledge of what ideas were considered and rejected, strengthened or weakened, glided or stripped, may well be useful in making an argument to elucidate the meaning of the law as enacted.
The manuscript of Act 267 tells is where H. 528 went on its progress from bill to act, including the committees that considered it and the changes that were made to it by the committees along the way. This gave us the information we needed on what to look for in the committee minutes. Committee minutes, incidentally, appear in two forms, the “Record of Action” and the “Record of Committee Meeting.” The former shows when the committee considered the bill and is usually the more useful document, since it may include notes on what is said about a bill as it is considered. The latter is the briefer of the two documents, and shows how the committee voted on the bill.
We started with the committee minutes for the House Committee on Health and Welfare for 1973 and 1974, at least through February 12, 1974, when the bill left the incubation of the committee room. The most revealing document in the file was the “Report of the House Health and Welfare Committee 1973-1974 Session.” Reports of this sort are rare in Vermont’s legislative archives, and very welcome, too. Signed by each member of the committee, the Report has this to say about H. 528:
The longest hours were put on H. 528, to place 21 licensing boards in the office of the Secretary of State. The committee met with representatives of all the licensing boards and held two public hearings on the subject. There was a great deal of opposition to the bill by the various licensing boards when this was first presented – 80 pages long – it appeared to be setting up a super board over these independent groups. Ron Albee, the legislative draftsman assigned to the committee worked long and faithfully with the committee. Finally, the bill was cut to seven pages. It places 21 boards which had been moved to the Agency of Human Services or other agencies in the office of the Secretary of State and establishes a review panel to handle complaints not taken care of by the individual boards. This has been a piece of legislation long needed. For the committee it was an excellent experience in cooperative effort, and understanding of how to put a bill together to meet the needs of many groups and the state.
Deeper in the file, we discovered that H. 528 was actually a reaction to several bills introduced earlier in the session. Bills to license opticians, auto mechanics, psychologists, and nursing home administrators were debated that session. On February 6, 1973, Senator Alden appears before the committee. The minutes are excellent here. Alden “favors discontinuing establishing boards unless consumers are included. He said the Senate was going to take no action on these bills that involve establishing boards until a study is made on the subject.” He says they have “no accountability and also feels thay have not up-graded their respective trades and professions.” The committee hears testimony from its own members on mismanagement, double standards and overlapping of boards.
On February 28, 1973, it hears from Attorney General Kimberly Cheney, who testifies to the problem with licensing boards and proposes the creation of one board to take care of all licensing matters. On March 8 of that year, the committee considers a resolution on licensing boards proposing a study of the problem for the coming summer.[footnote omitted; legislative information on the resolution]
The minutes for this committee of January 3, 1974 begin with discussion of draft 6 of draft bill 74-108. Clearly the idea of a superboard has now been replaced with an umbrella board, but the minutes state that “licensing board should be sure specialty boards do not become too restrictive.” On January 8, the committee notes explain that the “intent [of the bill] was to control all boards so they do not become exclusive.” On January 15, the minutes say that the bill “does not destroy the value of professional boards but encourages each one to hold high standards of performance...” On January 16, at a joint meeting with the House Commerce Committee, the Health and Welfare Committee minutes list the reasons for the bill, including providing a “method of appealing if someone fails an exam” and “any hearing should be in line with ‘right to know’ law.” Finally, on February 7, the committee votes out draft 12A of 74-108 unanimously, starting it on its official way to enactment. It now becomes H. 528, the number being the one next assigned in the cue by the Legislative Council.
The House Appropriations Committee minutes on H. 528 are unfortunately very sparse, showing the record of action on the bill, that the Committee voted to delete the section pertaining to removing boards’ funds, that Mr. Hebard reported the bill, and that three members of the Committee abstained when it came to a vote.[footnote omitted; comment suggesting value of first-person recollections, in this case, Mr. Hebard]
Unlike the Congress and many other states, Vermont does not have a system of reporting floor speeches. While what was said may be memorable, it is seldom transcribed and may not be that useful in court. [State of Vermont v. Brinegar, 379 F. Supp. 606, 611 (1974).]
Crossing over to the Senate, the minutes of the Senate Judiciary Committee are also very sparse, They show little more than that the Committee voted H. 528 out without recommendation.
Down the hill now to Public Records, we turned to the public hearings and committee meetings on H. 528 which have been transcribed. Before reaching Public Records, we called the Legislative Council (828-2231) to learn the dates of these transcribed hearings, and the microfilm reel numbers. The House Health and Welfare Committee held hearings during the summer of 1973 on the idea of this bill, on July 11, August 21, and September 6, and these transcripts are to be found on reel F 5229. The same Committee held a joint hearing with the House General and Military Affairs Committee on the bill on February 12, 1974, and this is transcribed and is now stored on microfilm at Public Records on reel F 5229.
Microfilm has its own problems, and the copies made from it are expensive (25 cents a page) and very difficult to read. The best idea is to sit in one of Public Records booths and read the transcript, copying down the information we may feel is useful, rather than having copies made and then trying to figure out what they mean later on.
The summer hearings are not useful to us. They consist of discussions and arguments with various professional associations and licensing boards, but the fact that no bill has been drafted at this point makes it difficult to draw conclusoins on H. 528.
The transcript of the February 12, 1974 hearing is interesting, but not very useful as a statement of legislative history. The parade of witnesses from licensing boards repeat the inevitable fear that the boards will lose power from this bill, and the Committee does its best to console them. The introductory remarks of Chairman Sloan are useful:
First of all I would like to say why we have H. 528 as a possible bill...A year ago now the House and Senate were flooded with requests from the Boards. We had the feeling that some of the boards were more intersted in themselves than in the consumer...The Attorney General felt that in some cases the statutes governing the boards were not being carried out...
What “de novo” means comes up, and Ronald Albee explains that it does not mean to start all over again, but that all the factors would be considered. [Hearing on H. 528, House Health and Welfare Committee, February 12, 1974, p. 15] On questioning, Representative Garfield explains that the Panel is to be established to provide an interim step between the boards and the courts, at nearly no cost to the appellants, as a disinterested body that would “hear both sides almost like a court.” By “both sides,” Mr. Garfield implies he is talking about a board and a licensee. [footnote omitted; Mr. Garfield’s full quote, citing to p. 41 of the transcript] The speed with which the Panel might hear matters, as opposed to the courts, is also given as an objective of this administrative appeals process. [Transcript, at p. 42]
The transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of March 29, 1974 is less meaty, but still valuable. Chairman Sloan of the House Health and Welafer Committee testifies at the hearing. From his testimony we learn about two reports on which the bill is based, one by the Joint Fiscal Committee and another by Jack Lindley, Jr. Unfortunately, like so many reports, they are not available to us from the resources and repositories at our command.
Richard Thomas, then Secretary of State, testified that the “appeals panel will allow the consumers, the public and potential licensees an avenue of appeal that isn’t burdensomely expensive as going through the courts would be to appeal the decision of the boards.” [Transcript. p. 9] Thomas adds that matters involving a person’s character will be kept confidential, and regarded as exempt from the right to know law.
The legislative history of H. 528 is rich anough to answer a dozen questions we might have about the meaning of the laws governing the Appeals Panel. We have been lucky.[footnote omitted]
[Remaining six pages omitted; contained general discussion of courts’ evoloving views on legislative history and hypotheticals]
Paul S. Gillies
January 20, 1985

The General Assembly: a Potpourri
compiled by the Vermont State Archives, 1994
[from page 101]
The Vermont Legislative Record: a Brief Overview
Scattered acress various Vermont government offices---the State Archives, the Public Records Division, the Department of Libraries, and the Legislative Council---are the records of the legislative branch from 1777 to the present. These documents not only provide a historical record, they also satisfy Chapter I, Article 6 of the Vermont Consitution, which state that all officers of government are accountable to the people.
The Vermont legislative record is not always thorough; some years or eras are much more solidly documented than others. Early unpublished records, from approximately 1777 to 1850, include petitions to the General Assembly, legislative committee reports, memoranda of clerks, and debentures, credentials and oaths of members of the General Assembly. There are also bills that failed and original acts. Legislative records from 1850 to 1917 are few; very few government records of any kind exist for the second half of the nineteenth century. There are bills as introduced and original acts but little else. The much more abundant records in this century include tapes of committee meetings and hearings starting in circa 1917, manuscript bill files, committee minutes and records of action, bills as introduced, original acts, committee reports and reports to the legislature, Legislative Council studies, as well as photographs of legislators, lobbyist and employer records, records of the Order of Women Legislators (OWLs), and records of individual legislators such as Senators Sally Conrad and John Finn, Representatives Lyle Rice, Dora Gephrags, and Speaker of the House Stephan Morse.
The location and description of all Vermont legislative records is, however, a project we will embrace some other day. Within this body of legislative records are some which elucidate the intent of the legislature, and show why certain legislation passed and what it was expected to accomplish. The following is a list of these special records that can be used to determine legislative intent. (This list dow not include the published books which help track legislative intent: Vermont Statutes Annotated, House Journals, Senate Journals, Laws of Vermont, and Compiled Statutes). For a detailed narrative on how to conduct a legislative intent, see “Vermont Legislative History: Where to find it and what to do with it” by Paul Gillies.
Legislative Records Used to Research Legislative Intent
1.    Bills as Introduced (House & Senate):
a.    State Library: 1853; 1863-present
b.    State Archives: 1985-present
Includes all bills, whether enacted or not.
2.    Original Acts & Resolves:
a.    State Archives: 1779-present
Original Acts & Resolves are deposited at the Secretary of State’s Office pursuant to Vermont Statutes Annotated T.3 §§ 104, 106. The intent of the legislature can (in some cases) be gleaned from the original act, which shows the original wording of the bill and the changes that were made before passage of the act.
3.    Legislative Committee Minutes and Records of Action:
a.    State Archives: 1917-present
Under House and Senate rule #29, the clerks of House and Senate committees are required to record committee minutes and records of action and to file them at the Office of the Secretary of State. The minutes record what the commirree members discussed on a particular day, the members of the committee present, the bills considered, and the names of any people who appeared before the committee. The records of action record any action that was taken ona bill such as the amendments proposed in committee, the names of persons requesting a hearing, the dates considered by the committee, and what members voted for or against the bill. Committee records can also inlcude supporting material such as studies, correspondence, and model legislation. The minutes and records of action range from very detailed to very sketchy.
4.    Bill files (Manuscript bills)
a.    Public Records: 1940-present
The bill files include draftman’s (sic) notes, correspondence between the draftsman and sponsor, and early drafts of the bill. These files are restricted and researchers must receive permission from the Legislative Council to view them.
5.    Committee transcripts/tapes
a.    Public Records: 1965-present
Public Records holds transcripts & audiotapes of legislative hearings and committee meetings. (In recent years, the legislative council (sic) has not had the funds to make transcripts of many of the tapes.) The best way to access the transcripts or tapes is to call the Legislative Council and let them know the bill number, the year and the committees that considered the bill. They will let you know what box or microfilm roll number to look for at Public Records.


Legislative History in Vermont
1.                   Begin with the Vermont Statutes Annotated. Following the section of interest, the citations for the original legislation appear, looking like this: 1983, No. 48 (Ajd. Sess.), sec. 1.
For example, we’ll look at 1983, No. 48 (Adj. Sess.), sec 1, folowing T.10 V.S.A. sec. 6602(15). “No. 48” is the act number of 1983 (Adjourned Session), found in the 1984 session laws. Biennial sessions are indicated by the lack of an “Adj. Sess.” note; the year specified is the actual year passed.
2.                   Turning to the Act in the session laws (Acts and Resolves Passed by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont...), to the Act itself (printed in numerical order), we see in parenthesis at the beginning “(S.175)”, which is the bill number. In earlier volumes of the session laws, the bill number isnot printed; you need to determine the bill number by going to the index in the House or Senate journal for the appropriate year. The bill number stays the same regardless fo the chamber (House or Senate) in which the bill is being considered.
3.                   Going next to the Journal of the Senate of the State of Vermont, you will find, preceding the general index, both a table of Senate bills and a table of House bills and resolutions considered. In the table of Senate bills, in numerical order, the bill number is followed by an account (in abbreviated form) of the bill’s travels through that chamber. The abbreviations are explained at the beginning of the Table. From this account, one can identify which committees the bill went to for consideration. In the example, “Rd.&ref.,4” indicated that the bill was read and referred (to a committee) on page 4 of the Journal. You can turn to page 4 to see which committee. Identify, from the abbreviations, all committees to which the bill went.
4.                   The process is the same in the Journal of the House.... Go to the Table of Senate Bills, and glean from the account which committee(s) considered the bill.
5.                   Having gathered the necessary information, the actual compilation of history can start. Available from the Division of public Records are notes made by hte people who drafted the bill. These are not necessarily public records, however. The Legislative Council must be called to request the notes from Public Records (a process which can take a couple of days), who will send them to the Council, who will purge any confidential information before allowing public access. The bill, as introduced, is available at the Department of Libraries and the Legislative Council. Upon introduction, a bill is sent to committee. The committees’ deliberations are placed in a folder, once again available from Public Records via a request through the Legislative Council. Submissions of written testimony or transcripts of testimony are open to the public; however, a call still needs to be made to the Council to obtain the correct film. It is to obtain the folder that the year and bill number is needed. The folders for committees held between 1917 and 1953 are listed chronologically/alphabetically with an indication of their contents in Guide to the Legislative Committee Minutes Held by the State Archives division 1917-1953 (Vermont, Secretary of State, [Montpelier?], [1985?]) at call number V 328.743/V59g, and shelved at the Reference Desk.
Paul J. Donovan
Law Librarian

DATE: December 16, 1992
RE: Research on Legislative Vermont History
I had occasion to do some research on legisoative history a while ago, which is so cumbersome and convoluted and exactly the kind of thing I can’t remember for more than a couple of days, that I thought I should write down the process for myself. I hope it’s useful to you too.
At the end of the statute your (sic) concerned with, in VSA, you will find the year, act number and section number for the statute and for each amendment. Under the “History” section, you may find a brief description of the actual amendment. If you see “(Adj. Sess.)”, the year the bill was passed was one year after the year given; thus “amended 1969, No. 279 (Adj. Sess.), sec 9” means the VSA section you’re looking at was amended in 1970 in § 9 of Act 279.
From there you need to look at the volume of “Laws of Vermont” arranged by the act number, to find the Senate and/of House bill number. You can also find the final text of your bill there, in order to more precisely determine what the amendment consisted of.
Using the bill number, go to the Senate and House Journals, in the same section of the State Law Library (sic). At the back of the Journals, just before the general index, there is a listing of Senate and House bills. There you will find a very cryptic description of what happened to the bill in the two Houses, sometimes including referrals to committees. The page numbers given in that cryptic description are the pages in the volume you’re working with on which the actions are described in more detail. In particular, you may need to go to those pages to find out exactly what committees the bill was referred to. Sometimes the committee assignments are in the cryptic description, sometimes not. According to Paul Donovan, the State Law Librarian (sic), the journals themselves virtually never contain anything of substance: “The only thing inthem, aside from the actions taken by the houses, are humorous poems and eulogies.”
Armed with the year, bill number and committee assignments, call (828-2231) or go to the Legislative Council’s office. This is in the back (northwest, I think) corner of the statehouse on the main floor. There, someone will be able to tell you whether or not there is any record of committee hearings on your bill. Transcripts and reel-to-reel tapes are readily available for viewing or listening at the Legislative Council’s office or at Public Records in Middlesex. Transcripts are not made anymore except at the request of the Committee chair. The Legislative Council’s office keeps everything through the current and previous session and the rest is in Middlesex. Anything taped since 1989 is on cassette tape which has to bo listened to in the Legislative Council’s office. Consequently, if you have a hearing from 1989 or 1990, that has not been transcribed, you will have to listen to it in the Legislative Council’s office and that will not be possible for a day or more after the request has been made. Anything that exists before that is available in Middlesex, anything after in the Legislative Council’s office. I guess the moral is call ahead.
The records of the clerks of the committee are amother possible source of information. They are contained in the state archives, in the Secretary of State’s office, in the Redstone Building. It’s located on the road to Middlesex; head north on Bailey Avenue, and take a left towards Middlesex. Redstone is a block or so up the hill. The information might get from clerks notes is very erratic; some take a lot of notes, some almost none. The minutes may or may not contain any reference to your bill, and may or may not be in numerical order, and may or may not tell you the dates on which the bill was considered, to facilitate your pawing through the notes themselves.
A final possible source of information are the “manuscript bill files”. These are the notes of the Legislative Council’s office taken on an individual bill. To get them, you need to call the Legislative Council’s office at 828-2231. They will have the file shipped from Middlesex, and then will have an attorney reviewed (sic) it to take out any “work product” that they don’t want to have available for general consumption. An archivist at Redstone told me that generally they aren’t too concerned about old bill, but they do tend to take out more on recent bills. The process of getting manuscript bill files from Middlesex can take several days, and you’ll have to review the file in the Legislative Council’s office in Montpelier.
Hope this is helpful. Everyone is very nice, but the whole system is incredibly cumbersome. On the older bills, you’re (sic) chances of finding anything are slimmer than more recent ones, but who knows when you might find the gem you are looking for. (sic) Good luck!
[postscript omitted]

A note on those abbreviations: VS=Vermont Statutes of 1947, PL=Public Laws of Vermont (1933), GL=General Laws of Vermont (1917), PL=Public Statutes of Vermont (1906), VS=Vermont Statutes (1894), RL=Revised Laws (1880), GS=General Statutes (1862), CS=Compiled Statutes (1858), VS=Vermont Revised Statutes (1839).

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