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Background Information

“Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”  John Godfrey Saxe

What is legislative history?

A legislative history is an attempt to determine the intent of the legislature.  The intent of the legislature is one of the arguments you can use when arguing how a ambiguous statute should be interpreted.

Food for thought

  • If ambiguity exists, the first place to look beyond the statute’s own text for legal authority is to judicial interpretation.
  • Legislative histories are not controlling or binding on any court.
  • Not all Judges are amenable to legislative history arguments (some are quite hostile).
  • Not all legislative documents are created equal.

Diagram depicting how a Bill becomes a Law in Ohio

Step-by-step Guide

  1. Locate the Session Law Citation from history section of the current statute:
    1. UC Law Library
      1. Page's Ohio Revised Code Annotated 
        Call Number:  KFO30 1953 .P3
      2. Baldwin's Ohio Revised Code Annotated
        Call Number:  KFO30 1994 . A2
      3. Anderson's Superseded Ohio Revised Code
        Law Library Microforms Cabinet 40
    2. Lawriter's Ohio Revised Code
  2. Locate the Session Law:
    1. UC Law Library
      1. Laws of Ohio (1803 - 1998)
        Call Number:  KFO25.A22
      2. Baldwin's Ohio Legislative Service (1971 - present)
        Call Number:  KFO15.B34
    2. Ohio Secretary of State (2001 - present)
    3. Ohio General Assembly (1995 - present)
    4. Hannah (Ohio) Capitol Connection (1989 - present)
    5. HathiTrust Digital Library (1853-1921)
  3. Locate the text of the House or Senate Bill:
    1. UC Law Library
      1. Law Library Microforms (1963 - 1984)
    2. Ohio General Assembly (1997 - present)
    3. Hannah (Ohio) Capitol Connection (1989 - present)
    4. Ohio History Connection (fka Ohio Historical Society) (1838 - present)
  4. Locate the Legislative Services Commission (LSC) Bill Analysis:
    1. UC Law Library
      1. Law Library Microforms (1963 - 1988)
    2. Legislative Services Commission (1997 - present)
    3. Hannah (Ohio) Capitol Connection (1989 - present)
    4. Ohio General Assembly (1997- present)
    5. Ohio History Connection (fka Ohio Historical Society) (1961 - 1986)
    6. Ohio Supreme Court Library (1961 - 1996)
  5. Locate the House and Senate consideration of the bill:
    1. UC Law Library
      1. Ohio House and Senate Journals (1880 - 1998)
        Call Number:  KFO18 .O4H6
      2. The Bulletin (1977 - 1992)
        Call Number:  KFO10 .G4
      3. Summary of Enactments (1975 - 1991)
        Call Number:  KFO15 .L43
      4. Baldwin's Legislative Service (1971 - present)
        Call Number:  KFO15 .B34
    2. Hannah (Ohio) Capitol Connection
      1. Status Report of Legislation (1989 - present)
      2. Committee Activity; Fiscal Notes (1989 - present)
      3. Committee Reports (1999 - present)
      4. Hannah Report (1989 - present)
    3. Ohio General Assembly
      1. The Ohio Channel (1997 - present)
      2. Synopsis of Committee Amendments (1997 - present)
      3. Conference Committee Synopsis (1997 - present)
      4. Fiscal Notes (1997 - present)
      5. Status Report of Legislation (1997 - present)
    4. Legislative Services Commission
      1. Digest of Enactments (1997 - present)
      2. Status Report of Legislation (1995 - present)
    5. Ohio History Connection (fka Ohio Historical Society)
      1. Bill files (1949 - present)
  6. Sources for secondary materials: Newspapers, Journals, Newsletters
    1. Cincinnati Enquirer
    2. Columbus Dispatch
    3. Cleveland Plain Dealer
    4. Hannah (Ohio) Capitol Connection Report*
    5. Gongwer's Ohio Legislative Report **
    6. Ohio State Bar Association Report 
      1. UC Law Library
        Call Number:  KFO202 .H56 
    7. Ohio State Law Journal 
      1. UC Law Library
        Call Number:  K15 .H567

Glossary of Terms

Baldwin's Legislative Service
Baldwin's Legislative Service Annotated contains the laws enacted by the Ohio General Assembly. Also included: Status Report of Legislation; Current Amendments to the Constitution, Rules of Practice and Procedure, and other court rules; Case notes and Journal references; Tables of Laws enacted (listed by Bill #, Revised Code section, and Court Rules).

Bill
A bill is simply a proposed law. In Ohio, bills can originate from either the Senate or the House of Representatives. As each bill is introduced in the General Assembly, they are numbered consecutively and abbreviated HB or SB to indicate its house of origin (e.g., HB for House Bill & SB for Senate Bill). If the introduced bill is amended or substituted, the notation "Am." Or "Sub." will be added to the bill number (e.g. H.B 3, or Am. H.B. 3, or Am. Sub. H.B. 3). **Note that the bill number remains unchanged. Bills that do not pass in the two-year General Assembly must be re-introduced into the next General Assembly with a new bill number. It should also be noted that although House and Senate bills that share the same bill number may be companion to one another, that might not always be the case (e.g., HB 3 is not the same SB 3). **

Bill Files
A bill file typically contains various versions of a particular bill, a synopsis of committee amendments, committee reports, testimony, fiscal notes, and local impact statements. Bill files are compiled by the Legislative Service Commission and housed at the Ohio History Connection (fka Ohio Historical Society).

Committee Reports
As a bill works its way through the legislative process, it will be assigned to a standing committee. If the committee reports the legislation back to the full House/Senate, it will issues a committee report. Typically, reports are not available before 1989. Available reports can be found in the Bill file or online at Ohio Capital Connection.

Debates
Debates are not typically available for Ohio.

Bulletin, The
Provides the title and actions taken on every bill introduced in either house of the General Assembly.

Digest of Enactments
(Formerly Summary of Enactments- 1957 to 1994)
Provides a summary of all bills that have been enacted by the General Assembly.

Fiscal Note
Prepared by the Legislative Service Commission, fiscal notes discuss the fiscal implication of the proposed legislation (i.e., how each bill will monetarily affect a community).

Hannah Report
The Hannah Report is a daily newsletter covering political activity in Ohio. Each article contains pertinent information assessing a particular bill's impact and intent. Committee reports, Senate and House testimony, and relevant news articles are included.

Hearings
Hearings are not typically available for Ohio.

House and Senate Journals
The House and Senate Journals are the official printed records of the activities of the Ohio General Assembly. The respective Clerk's office prints the journals on the day following each session day. The text of floor amendments are included in the Journal, but not bills, reports, or debates. The Journal is bound at the end of the Assembly. The Bulletin is reprinted in its index.

Laws of Ohio
This publication contains all the laws passed by the Ohio General Assembly. Vetoed bills, as well as the uncodified laws (those laws which are not permanent in nature and not codified in the Revised Code) are also included.

Legislative Services Commission (LSC) Bill Analysis
The Legislative Service Commission produces an analysis for bills scheduled for a committee hearing in either the Ohio Senate or Ohio House of Representatives. Each analysis gives the reader a summation of the proposed legislation. As a bill moves through the House and the Senate, the bill's analysis is updated to reflect any changes. After a bill passes both the House and the Senate, LSC prepares a final analysis. Analyses are an excellent source for determining legislative intent.

Session Law
The term session law refers to an enactment of the Ohio General Assembly. They are officially published in the Laws of Ohio. The Laws of Ohio contains all the laws passed by the Ohio General Assembly. Vetoed bills, as well as the uncodified laws (those laws which are not permanent in nature and not codified in the Revised Code) are also included. Session laws are also located in Baldwin's Ohio Legislative Service, the General Assembly's website, and Ohio Capital Connection.

Session Law Citation
The Session Law Citation is located in the history section of both commercial versions of the Ohio Revised Code (i.e., Page's Ohio Revised Code Annotated and Baldwin's Ohio Revised Code Annotated). See Example.

Status Report of Legislation
The Ohio Legislative Service Commission compiles the Status Report of Legislation. The Status Report lists the action taken on a bill or resolution as it works its way through the Ohio General Assembly.

Testimony
During the legislative process, proponent and opponent testimony may be given at the committee/subcommittee level. Testimony may be found in the Bill files going back to 1985. Testimony may also be available in Ohio Capital Connection and the Hannah Report.

Further Readings

David A. Gold, A Guide to Legislative History in Ohio (Ohio Legislative Service Commission, 1985).
Call Number:  Ref KFO75 .G65 1985

E. Pollack and C. O'Brien, The History of Legislative Publications in Ohio, 13 Ohio State Law Journal 307 (1952).

Melanie Putnam and Susan Schaefgen, Ohio Legal Research Guide (1997).
Call Number:  KFO75 .P88 1997

Sara Sampson, Katherine L. Hall, Carolyn Broering-Jacobs, Ohio Legal Research (2015).
Call Number: KFO75 .O55 2015

William H. Manz, Guide to State Legislative and Administrative Materials (2008).
Call Number:  KF1 .F57 2008

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