Legislative Records

Research Guides

About the Records

Legislative records at the Utah State Archives document the process of lawmaking by the House of Representatives and the Senate in the Utah legislature. They are created by the two houses, the Legislative Research and General Counsel office, the Legislative Fiscal Analyst office, and governors and lieutenant governors.

Records by Type

The following are some of the series most commonly used records on legislation. Most current records are still in the creating office, and some may be available online at le.utah.gov. The Utah legislature is now in session annually, though remains numbered for every two years. For example, the 65th Legislature general session began in January 2023 and closed in March, but it will still be the 65th Legislature in January 2024. Special sessions for both houses are numbered continuously across both years, while the state senate may also have extraordinary sessions separately numbered.

Utah House Journal

Code and Laws

The Utah Code and the Laws of Utah, or session laws, encompass the creation of law in Utah.

See also:

Laws of Utah, 1851-[ongoing]. le.utah.gov
View Online
Series 83155
Utah Code Annotated, 1851-[ongoing] le.utah.gov Series 83238
Utah Code Unannotated, 1982-2022. Series 1052

Legislative Minutes

Discussion and debate in the legislative chambers is recorded in journals and later audiovisual formats. Journals do not generally provide a full transcript of proceedings, but record activity on the floor for that day of a session.

Legislative Assembly
Journals, 1851-1880. Series 3145
Legislative Assembly. House
Journal record books, 1858-1878. View Online Series 16660
Legislative Council
Journal record books, 1858-1882. View Online Series 3167
Journals, 1882- View Online
Series 456
Floor debate recordings, 1957-[ongoing] le.utah.gov Series 23020
Journals, 1882- View Online
Series 409
Floor debate recordings, 1965-[ongoing] le.utah.gov Series 22515

Legislative Bill Files

Bills and resolutions are drafted for consideration in the Legislature. If passed by both houses and signed by the governor, they will be published in the Laws of Utah and added to the Utah Code. They fall into eight types: House Bills (H.B.), Senate Bills (S.B.), House Resolutions (H.R.), Senate Resolutions (S.R.), House Joint Resolutions (H.J.R.), Senate Joint Resolutions (S.J.R.), House Concurrent Resolutions (H.C.R.), and Senate Concurrent Resolutions (S.C.R.). Numbering is restarted for each general and special session.

Legislative Assembly
Territorial legislative records, 1851-1894. Series 3150
Working bills, 1896-[ongoing] View Online
Series 432
Working bills, 1896-[ongoing] View Online
Series 428
Lieutenant Governor
Legislative bills, 1896-[ongoing] Series 4076
Legislative Research and General Counsel
Bill drafting and research records, 1980-[ongoing] Series 7073

Committee Records

Much of the detailed work in amending and discussing bill files happens in committee. Standing committees are held during the annual session, while interim committees study topics of interest when not in session.

Legislative Research and General Counsel
Interim committee histories, 1967-[ongoing] Search Index Series 7230
Standing committee minutes, 1967-[ongoing] le.utah.gov Series 3159
Standing committee audio recordings, 1994-[ongoing] le.utah.gov Series 23013
Standing committee minutes, 1972-[ongoing] le.utah.gov Series 18459
Standing committee audio recordings, 1994-[ongoing] le.utah.gov Series 21084

Governors' Records

Governors often have legislative agendas and may track bills in their own files along with related resources and correspondence. These bill files or records may provide valuable insights in legislative intent and the process of turning bills into law, or their failure to progress.

Governor Bamberger
Legislative bills record, 1917-1919.   Series 12365
Governor Rampton
Legislative bill records, 1965-1976.   Series 17586
Governor Matheson
Legislative bill files, 1977-1984.   Series 1595
Governor Bangerter
Legislative case files, 1985-1992.   Series 8583

Constitutional Records

The Utah Constitution was created in 1895 and has been amended in numerous ways since. The Utah State Archives holds the original constitution and a digital copy may be viewed online. Records and dockets of the Constitutional Convention cover the proceedings for Utah's transition from a territory to a state.

Constitutional Convention (1895)
Records, 1895 View Online Series 3212
State Constitution, 1895 View Online Series 3214
Election Office
Voter Information Pamphlets, 1975-[ongoing] Series 21810

Reports and Publications

Legislative Research and General Counsel exists to support legislators in researching and drafting bills with the appropriate legal language, citations, plus legal and policy analysis.Their publications point to policy and legislative trends and tropics. They also release an organization chart for the state government each year.

Legislative Research and General Counsel
Legislative Interim Reports, 1948-[ongoing] le.utah.gov Series 22117
Digest of Legislation reports, 1949-[ongoing] le.utah.gov Series 17929
Research reports, 1976-[ongoing] Series 24138

Researching Legislative Intent

Legislative intent is what lawmakers had in mind in passing a bill or resolution. Judges, attorneys, historians, and others study intent for guidance in interpreting a resulting law. Legislative history is the written and spoken record that documents the stages in the passage of a bill or resolution as it goes through the legislative process. Legislative history is used for discovering sources of information about the legislative intent.

1. Identify the Utah Code section you wish to research

The Utah Code Annotated (Series 83238) is the authorized version in print only for public laws or statutes currently in effect. The annotations are provided by outside editors with notes documenting the history of the section. Notes may also include related court rulings and reference to other records that may be of assistance to your research. Each edition of the code has an alphabetical subject index.

The Utah Code on le.utah.gov is the main version provided by the legislature for the general public. The most recent amendment of a code section will indicate the Laws of Utah chapter number, year, and link to the relevant bill. All bill files online list the code sections affected, so it is possible to reconstruct similar annotations with these resources if the Utah Code Annotated is not readily available.

2. Find which session law created the language

Use the information in the annotations or amendment notes to find the session laws published as the Laws of Utah (Series 83155). 

"History: C. 1953, 63-2-103, enacted by L. 1991, ch. 259, 10; 1992, ch. 280, 15" tells us this particular section or paragraph of Utah Code Annotated 1953 was originally enacted in 1991 by an act found in Laws of Utah (1991), chapter 259, section 10 and that it was amended in 1992 by an act found in Laws of Utah (1992), chapter 280, section 15. You need to decide if you want to research the law as it was first created or review the laws that amended it.

3. Determine which bill created the law

The Laws of Utah contains laws passed during each legislative session and signed or permitted into law by the governor for that session only. Find the copy of the Laws for the session of interest to you. Look up the chapter number and the section number that you have identified. On the first page of your chapter under the number you will see the bill number. You need to know the year and bill number to further trace the law's history.

4. Trace the procedural history of the bill during its passage

  1. Find and review the actual bills. A working bill shows the text of the bill and revisions and has appended information (as a log on the backing sheet or “bill back”) showing committees for referral, the results of votes on the bill, and other actions taken. We also have bills passed and filed by the Lieutenant Governor's office following the governor's action. Bills produced by the territorial legislature, 1851-1896, are found with the other documents produced by the Legislative Assembly.
  2. Review the bill drafting records if the bill was created since 1980. Drafting records may contain useful background information about the source or the purpose of the bill.
  3. Review the legislature's journals. The earliest journals recorded the activities in detail while more recent journals just note the actions taken more briefly. Actions include referrals to committees, votes, and transmittal between chambers.
  4. Locate and review the appropriate committee minutes. Both the journals and the back of the working bill should mention the standing committees (before the 1920s, the bill file itself is likely to include a report from the committee). The standing committee minutes record a summary of the committee's activities and determinations; legislative committees do not normally keep verbatim records of all deliberations.
  5. Listen to floor debates. The House of Representative floor debates started in 1957 and the Senate floor debates started in 1965. The journals will give you relevant dates.
  6. Review governors' legislative files. Gubernatorial actions may have influenced the drafting of legislation or indicate how an act was implemented.
  7. Check other sources. Sometimes the governor or legislature will create special task forces or commissions to study potential legislation and issue reports of their findings. State agencies may also have filed reports. Though an unofficial source, newspapers provide a contemporary view of the legislative process. Contacting lobbying organizations, former legislators, or persons who testified before committees may be useful if they retained copies of their papers.

Page Last Updated February 22, 2024.

About this Guide
Legislative Intent written by Arlene Schmuland and Ray Matthews and originally published in 2002.