The DLS Library Collection

One of the core missions of the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) Library is to preserve the history of Maryland legislation.  There are many types of materials in the library’s collection that provide important information and sometimes aid in discovering the intent behind provisions found in Maryland law.  Below is a description of the materials in the DLS Library collection and how they can be used in legislative history research:

Committee bill files contain the documents associated with each piece of legislation introduced in the General Assembly.  In some instances, these files can help the researcher discover legislative intent. Committee files may contain the following information:

  • copies of versions of the legislation
  • amendments offered in legislative committees and on the floor in both chambers
  • committee bill analyses and floor reports
  • lists of witnesses at committee bill hearings
  • copies of written testimony
  • correspondence regarding bills
  • other documentation compiled by the committee
  • Attorney General advice letters and bill review letters
  • fiscal and policy notes (also available online from 1996 to the present)
  • committee votes (also available online from 2010 to the present)
  • floor votes (also available online from 1998 to the present)

The Department of Legislative Services Library is the repository for House and Senate committee files for bills introduced in sessions of the Maryland General Assembly from 1975 to the present.  Currently, the DLS Library has committee bill files several formats: microfilm, print, DVD, and PDF.

The following Maryland libraries also have bill files prior to 2003 on microfilm and 2003 to 2005 on DVD and/or microfilm:

  • Maryland State Law Library, Annapolis
  • Attorney General’s Office Library, Baltimore
  • Baltimore Bar Library, Baltimore
  • University of Baltimore Law Library, Baltimore
  • University of Maryland Thurgood Marshall Law Library, Baltimore
  • Montgomery County Circuit Court Library, Rockville
  • Law Library, Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Towson

Also known as the “Session Laws,” the Laws of Maryland are published at the end of each regular or special legislative session.  The final versions of the bills that are passed by the General Assembly and become law are printed and bound.  Each Chapter published in the Laws of Maryland is included in the “history statement” appearing at the end of each Maryland statute, which leads the legislative history researcher to the appropriate bill number for further study.  For more information on how to locate a bill number, visit our Legislative History Guide. The print volumes of the Laws of Maryland, dating back to 1637, appear in the DLS Library and the Maryland State Archives has also made this collection available online.

The Journals of the House of Delegates and Journals of the Senate are official publications of the Maryland General Assembly.  These journals, published after each regular and special session, contain committee recommendations on bills, floor amendments, bill history information, floor roll call votes, and action on any motion in the legislative chambers, though do not contain transcripts of the proceedings.

In addition to committee bill files, the Laws of Maryland, and the House and Senate Journals, the DLS Library also houses a number of other historical legislative documents.  Among these documents are the following:

  • House and Senate Bills, 1832-present (includes both passed and failed)
  • Subject, sponsor, and statute indexes for proposed legislation, 1908-present
  • Legislative Council/Legislative Policy Committee Reports and Related File Materials, 1941-1982
  • Daily synopses of bills and resolutions, 1973-present
  • Hearing schedules (session and interim), 1970-present
  • Fiscal Notes, 1968-present (1996-present are also available on the MGA website)

Section 2-1257 of the State Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland requires the submission of five printed copies of all reports distributed or submitted to the General Assembly.  These documents are cataloged to serve as the official copies preserved for historical purposes.  Electronic submission are used for ease of access for online users and are authenticated as an exact representation of what is on the library’s shelves.  These materials can be found in the Library Catalog, which refers the user to the physical location of the document by call number as well as an electronic access point for digital users.  Mandated reports can include, but are not limited to, Task Force Reports, Committee Reports, Commission reports and annual or special reports by state agencies.

On a regular basis, analysts in the Department of Legislative Services put together a number of publications of use to legislators, staff, and members of the public.  Examples of these types of reports include the 90 Day Report (published after each regular legislative session), The Major Issues Review (published after each four-year term), the Issue Papers (published in advance of each legislative session), the Legislative Handbook Series (published at the beginning of each four-year term).  The DLS Library has physical copies of these publications (both past and present) and the items appear in the library’s catalog.  More recent items are electronically accessible through the library’s catalog, in examining the various policy areas on the DLS website, and some can also be found on the Maryland General Assembly’s website. 

Since 1966, DLS Library staff have reviewed and clipped newspapers for articles about the activities of the Maryland General Assembly, the Executive and Judicial Branches of Maryland government, issues related to pending legislation, relevant activities of the federal government and other states, and other items pertinent to the Maryland General Assembly.  Currently, staff review the major daily newspapers in Maryland and Washington, D.C., selected Maryland regional weekly newspapers, as well as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.  Materials related to these matters can be useful for legislative history researchers to review in order to gain a sense of the scope of an issue at given moments in history.