NY Bill Jackets — Legislation Uncloaked
No, no, no ... you can't try them on for size! They're not that kind of jacket — they're not clothing at all. They are, however, the most frequently asked for resource for New York State legislative history here at SIBL.
The materials that comprise the histories of bills and laws, at the state and U.S. Federal levels, are certainly items of interest to historians and biographers. They also have an entire other life as ammunition for lawyers arguing about "statutory interpretation." The idea here is that the "intent" of the folks who wrote, amended, and passed the laws will help clear up any inconsistancy or ambiguity in their wording, and that the documents, which are part of the legislative history, can help show this intent. This view is deprecated by many in the profession, but the usage is unlikely to disappear, and the debate continues.
What's in a bill jacket? A bill jacket may include sponsors' memoranda, commission and agency position statements, and study group comments. Additionally, there may be views of bar associations, lobbyists, and concerned organizations and individuals. There almost never are committee or commission reports, or transcripts of debates and hearings of testimony. However, there could be references to reports of committees, task forces, or other groups named in memoranda or correspondence. (This description is paraphrased from material on the New York State Library website. More information about NY legislative histories and statutory intent can be found there.)
Locating Copies of Bill Jackets
The following table indicates the date ranges and call numbers of these materials in SIBL's collection. When requesting bill jackets, you will need the year and chapter number of the law. That information is available from a variety of sources; if you don't know it, we can help at our reference desk to find it.
|1905, 1921 - 58||*ZAN-T654|
|1959 - 74*||*XLE-318|
|1975 - 82||*ZAN-T654|
|1983 - 2001||*XLE-318|
|2002 -||*WSC-4886 (See the catalog for latest received)|
|Online Digital version (currently from 1995 forward)||NYS Archives Digital Collections|
|More Recent Sessions||Call NYS Archives (518) 474-8955|
|Current Session||Call Office of Governor's Counsel (518) 474-7182|
|* Note: the following chapters have NO BILL JACKETS at The New York Public Library or the New York State Library:
1959, chap 651
- 1948: Chapters 1 - 379 are available
- 1949: Chapters 701 - 744 are available
- 1955: Chapters 734 - 872 are available
For these materials, you may want to contact the NY State Library at (518) 474-5355.
There is also a fee-based service from which bill jackets, as well as other legislative documents, can be ordered:
New York Legislative Service, Inc.
15 Maiden Lane, Suite 1000
New York, NY 10038-5117
Telephone (212) 962-2826, -2827 or -2828
Fax (212) 962-1420