In my last blog post, we looked at the
various bill tracking features on theNorth Carolina General Assembly’s (“NCGA”) website. Ideally, the legislative
history research process tracks a bill as it makes its way through the
legislative process, and that means our next stop is researching
legislative committee materials.
Legislatures cannot collectively
scrutinize and hear testimony on each bill put before them. There are simply
too many proposed bills, and many require detailed knowledge of the underlying
issues that most legislators do not have. Legislative committees step in to
thoroughly examine bills assigned to them, hear testimony, and consider
possible amendments. At the end of the committee process, the legislators
serving on the committee will make recommendations to the legislature concerning
the bill – recommending passage of the bill, encouraging the legislature to
consider passage with amendments, or refusing to recommend the bill for passage.
When considering North Carolina
legislative committee materials as a part of your legislative history research,
you should keep in mind the warning from the North Carolina Supreme Court: "In determining legislative intent, this Court does not look to the record of internal deliberations of committees of the legislature considering proposed legislation." Electric Supply Co. v. Swain
Electrical Co. 328 N.C. 651, 657 (1991).
On the NCGA website, you can expect to find committee meeting minutes and supporting resources, including studies, reports, and other miscellaneous published materials used by the committees during their deliberations. This blog post will outline for you how to identify and search for these types of materials.
Searching by Committee Name
The NCGA website generally makes committee materials available online for the most
recent legislative session, but you will also find additional content available for particularly active committees and temporary committees established only for specific periods of time. While some older materials can be found on the NCGA website, if you are looking for committee meeting minutes and materials from previous
legislative sessions, you will likely need to visit the North Carolina Legislative
Library to view those documents either in print or microform. The Legislative Library provides an
overview of available committee meeting materials on their website.
From the NCGA Legislative Committees page, you
have several options for accessing committee meeting minutes by committee name, including options
to browse the committees via a drop-down box, view committees based on
individual legislators, and a search box that allows you to search for
committees using your own key terms:
NCGA Website - Legislative Committees Page
Each individual committee page generally
provides you with the following information: (1) names of the legislators
currently serving on the committee, (2) the bills currently “in committee”, and
(3) any meeting minutes/materials from the current legislative session. You can
see from the screenshot below of the Senate Select Committee on Prison Safety where
each piece of information can be found:
NCGA Website - Committee Page Example
Any meeting minutes and
associated material will be located in the “Documents” tab. Unfortunately,
these materials are not organized by
bill, so you have to view each individual meeting and search through the
materials for any relevant content. The following is an example from the Senate
Select Committee on Prison Safety. You can see that the
folder for the March 11, 2019 meeting contains an audio file, the agenda,
meeting minutes, and several other relevant documents considered by the
committee members during the meeting:
NCGA Website - Committee Meeting Minutes Example
Searching by Published Committee Documents
The NCGA website also provides access to specific committee materials in their "Published Committee Documents" tab, which can be found just below the other committee selection tabs discussed above. You will find this catch-all cache of documents at the bottom of the main Committees page:
NCGA Website - Published Committee Documents
The Published Committee Documents section provides another means for accessing content on the NCGA website, and all of the documents and committees are organized in alphabetical order. This last section on the Committees page is the quickest way to locate specific studies or non-standing committees temporarily established for specific purposes. For instance, in the image above you will see that the first link takes you to the electronically available content for the 21st Century Transportation Committee, created by the NCGA for a specific purpose in 2007-2008.
If you are unable to locate relevant material via your initial searches by individual committee, remember to check out the Published Committee Documents section. It contains a wealth of resources that aren't neatly organized into specific, standing committee pages.
Committee meeting minutes and
accompanying documentation can be used by UNC Law students and faculty in a
variety of ways. Chiefly, recent committee meeting minutes are one of the best places
to continue monitoring pending legislation that is “in committee”. These
materials provide the researcher with up-to-date knowledge on the state of the proposed
legislation and any potential amendments that are being considered. The NCGA
website makes accessing this content relatively easy for legal researchers!
Posted by Melissa M. Hyland on Wed. April 17, 2019 10:25 AM